Nepal to play Timor Leste


KATHMANDU: Nepal will play against Timor Leste in the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers. The first leg of the Asian qualifiers will be held in Kathmandu on June 29, while the return leg is scheduled for July 3 in Timor Leste. If Nepal win the first-round match, they will play against Jordan in July.

Nepal last played the FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Oman, losing both matches by the identitical score of 2-0 in Muscat and Kathmandu. Meanwhile, Nepal have been drawn in Group ‘D’ along with Syria, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in the AFC Under-16 Championships qualifiers to be held in Nepal from September 10-25. In the AFC U-19 championship qualifiers slated for October 28 to November 12, Nepal are pitted in Group ‘A’ along with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Bangladesh and Maldives.

The participating teams in both the qualifiers are divided into seven groups, with top two teams from all the pools making it to the finals.


Memo Mr Rudd: don't ignore the neighbours

The Gillard government persisted against the odds with its plan for a regional processing centre in East Timor. Not only was the idea ill-conceived, Canberra's diplomatic preparation was also appalling and its failure to come up with convincing alternatives abysmal. The idea has finally dissolved at the Bali summit on people-smuggling and Labor must now drop its political point-scoring and turn back to the centres at Manus Island and Nauru that formed part of John Howard's Pacific Solution.

The lack of interest from East Timor and Indonesia underlines the truth that asylum-seekers are essentially an Australian challenge. These people are not seeking safety in Indonesia, the main stepping-stone to Australia. It is we who must do the heavy lifting through painstaking regional diplomacy, strategic resourcing and restoring the off-shore processing system to send the right signals to people-smugglers. Australia's failure to convince Dili over the offshore centre is bad enough, although not surprising, but the absence from the Bali summit of East Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa, who is at a Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting chaired by Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama, points to a broader problem with our regional diplomacy.

As prime minister, Kevin Rudd won applause in Papua New Guinea, and beyond in the Pacific, when his first foreign visit was to Port Moresby. Since then, that shine has faded. The demands on Mr Rudd as Foreign Minister are immense -- from the Middle East to natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan. Even so, every Australian government must ensure key relationships are well-oiled. That includes building the best and broadest possible links with the neighbours. Tensions are bound to arise, as regional politicians seek -- probably without winning extra votes beyond a few urban malcontents -- to affirm their independence by stressing differences with Canberra. This happens especially as elections approach, as in PNG, where they are due in the middle of next year, and as governments form, as in Solomon Islands, with wafer-thin majorities. The sense of edginess and transition is strong in the islands today, with PNG especially awash with money from its resources boom. The digital revolution sweeping the Pacific is presenting new opportunities for business. Canberra can no longer presume that its influence will persist purely by default. Seductive alternative forms of governance are emerging -- from China, to a degree, but more worryingly from Commodore Bainimarama's militarised Fiji. He is seizing the day, squeezing his chairmanship of the MSG for all it is worth as Fiji is suspended from the larger Pacific Islands Forum grouping that also includes Australia.

There are no short cuts for Australia. We must reapply ourselves to winning hearts and minds in the Pacific. That involves frequent visits. And -- Wayne Swan take note -- better resources for diplomacy.

While we are reconfiguring and increasing our aid efforts, it is essential we do the same for our other channels of engagement. Starving our diplomatic missions of the staff and funds they need undermines our capacity to project policies beyond the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.


Gillard suffers humiliating failure in Asia talks

The vaguest reference in the meeting's communique to the possibility of a centre or centres in some unknown place, at some unknown time, for some undefined purpose in the distant future was the best Australian diplomacy could do by way of a fig leaf to cover its shocking policy nakedness. The Prime Minister last August proposed a regional processing centre for asylum-seekers in East Timor. It was her major political response to the flood of illegal immigrants in Australia's north, a big issue in the election.

The East Timorese have never agreed to the idea and repeatedly rebuffed it.

But the federal government, and especially the hapless Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, keep verballing the East Timorese and pretending that it is a live option.

Now Gillard claims it is not really a regional centre, and therefore doesn't need to be determined at the Bali meeting, but is just a bilateral matter between Australia and East Timor.

This is news to the East Timorese and is in any event a direct contradiction of Gillard's initial proposal.

Be that as it may, the East Timorese don't want it under any circumstances.

The East Timor processing centre only ever had one purpose - to get Gillard through the last election, to look as though the government had some positive ideas about how to stop illegal immigrants coming to Australia by boat, when in fact it had no idea.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd deserves a special meritorious service award for refusing, in almost all circumstances, ever to mention the ludicrous idea to anybody.

Bowen's credibility is apparently less important to the government and he continues to twitter on about the matter, with the only effect being continued embarrassment to Australia and worthless misuse of our diplomatic resources.

The Bali process itself is useful and it has been for the near-decade since Alexander Downer founded it.

But there was no breakthrough in this meeting, nor was it in any way a triumph for Australian diplomacy.

Rather, the whole, sorry saga has been a deep embarrassment

to Australia and reinforces cynicism about all the commitments Gillard made during the election campaign.

The Gillard government should now accept that East Timor has said no. Canberra should stop verballing the East Timorese.

And it should stop embarrassing itself by continually talking about this phantom centre to tolerant but increasingly impatient Southeast Asian governments.

It should also start telling the truth about this issue to the Australian people.

Either this foolish proposal is now dead or the government

must tell us how, and in what timeframe, it is going to be brought back to life.


East Timor not part of the asylum solution

E Timor

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd gestures as he speaks to his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, before a photo session in Bali yesterday. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

AUSTRALIA'S plan for a regional refugee processing centre in East Timor has been dealt a crippling blow, with the head of Timor's delegation to the Bali people-smuggling summit rejecting Labor's bid for one-on-one talks about the controversial proposal.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who attended the talks, has insisted the idea, which was not mentioned at the Bali summit, should be pursued as part of bilateral discussions with Dili. But the head of Timor's delegation to Bali, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Alberto Carlos, refused to commit his country to direct talks with Canberra.

"For us, it's better to take a regional discussion because this is a regional issue," Mr Carlos told The Australian. "It's broader, wider than a bilateral issue."

Mr Carlos was downbeat about the chances of establishing the centre, saying his country had more pressing problems and was not a suitable location.

"Our land is very very small," he told the ABC. "Very small, one million population, the income is still very low.

"A lot of infrastructure needs to be built, so that's our main priority".

But as ministers and delegates began leaving the two-day talks, the Gillard government secured a minor victory after members of the Bali summit agreed to consider the possibility of establishing a "centre or centres" somewhere in the region to process asylum claims.

The 41-member summit ended yesterday with member states endorsing the idea of a regional co-operation framework, a set of principles that would seek to harmonise the management of asylum claims across the region.

Some of the suggested areas for future co-operation included deeper information and intelligence-sharing arrangements and greater consistency in determining asylum claims.

Mr Bowen said the non-binding statement issued at the end of the summit was a "very significant" step in improving co-operation.

"Today, the Bali Process members outlined the architecture of the framework," Mr Bowen said.

"It's now open for bilateral discussions to fill in the details, to build the walls of the regional agreement that has been laid out by members today."

Quizzed at the closing press conference about Timor's apparent reluctance, Mr Bowen acknowledged the proposal remained controversial in Dili, but indicated the government would press on with its Timor idea.

"Certainly the communications we've received at the very highest levels of the East Timorese government is that the discussions should continue," Mr Bowen said.

The setbacks prompted a scathing attack from opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who called on the Gillard government to dump the proposal, which was announced in July last year before the federal election.

"To watch the procession of regional leaders forced to politely nod and engage in this conversation has been excruciating . . . as much for the rest of Australia watching this farce," he said.

Addressing delegates at the summit's opening session earlier yesterday, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said inconsistencies in managing asylum claims were common in regions across the world.

"Often we have a problem of people going from one country to another because of inconsistency of approaches," Mr Rudd said.

He described "core principles" of a regional protection framework, which he said had never been achieved elsewhere in the world.

"A regional co-operation document for the first time would give us a framework within which individual countries can agree new anti-people-smuggling arrangements between them," he said. "Including the possibility of a regional centre, or regional centres, to deal with the problem."

Speaking before Mr Rudd, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa rallied delegates, saying the region "urgently needs to find common ground".

"We must address all aspects of the problem. We must strengthen co-operation, expand our network and think outside the box," he said.

The view of the Australian delegation is that before talks can begin in earnest on where to build a processing centre, there must first be in place a common approach to managing asylum-seekers.

UNHCR regional head Ric Towle was pleased with the outcome of the Bali talks.

"The commitment to the regional co-operation framework and a number of other elements related to it are a solid foundation for building future cooperation," Mr Towle said.