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Japanese leader pledges to build close relations with independent East Timor

Japanese leader pledges to build close relations with independent East Timor

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi today visited East Timor, where he held talks with senior Government and United Nations officials and pledged to build close relations with the territory following its independence next month.

In a joint press statement, Prime Minister Koizumi and Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri expressed their common determination to establish “a favourable and close future-orientated relationship between Japan and East Timor after its independence.”

Earlier during his meeting with the Chief Minister, Mr. Koizumi said that Japan would continue to actively support East Timor’s national reconciliation and nation-building activities, and pledged to help East Timor build strong relations with other countries in the region.

In addition to meeting with Mr. Alkatiri, Mr. Koizumi’s five-hour visit included talks with President-elect Xanana Gusmão and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET).

Before leaving late this afternoon, Mr. Koizumi addressed some 40 members of the Japanese Engineering Group based on the outskirts of Dili. The Prime Minister thanked the peacekeepers for their concrete action in fulfilling what he said was Japan’s important role on the international stage and for cooperating with peacekeepers from other countries for the sake of peace.

Earlier this year, 690 soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Engineering Group arrived in East Timor to replace departing Pakistani and Bangladeshi engineers as part of the ongoing downsizing of the UN peacekeeping force.

Meanwhile in New York, the Security Council wrapped up a debate on East Timor that had begun on Friday. Numerous speakers hailed the territory’s impending independence – set for 20 May – and voiced support for its institutions and leaders, including President-Elect Xanana Gusmao, who addressed the Council last week.

Welcoming plans to set up the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) to succeed UNTAET, speakers stressed the importance of helping the fledgling country to face the many challenges ahead, including security, refugee returns and development.

Addressing participants at the close of the session, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guhénno, voiced gratitude to all who had backed the follow-on mission. “Your support is very much appreciated and I’m sure will facilitate the timely establishment of UNMISET,” he said.