Security Council welcomes East Timor's independence, hails UN role in achieving it

Security Council welcomes East Timor's independence, hails UN role in achieving it

UN Security Council in session
Welcoming East Timor's ascension into the community of nations, the United Nations Security Council today paid tribute to the people and leadership of the world's newest country for their efforts in achieving the goal of independence.

The Council's congratulations came in a presidential statement read out in an open meeting by Foreign Minister Shunmugam Jayakumar of Singapore, which holds the 15-member body's rotating presidency for the month of May. During the meeting, representatives of over 30 countries took the floor to applaud East Timor's new status as a sovereign State.

In the statement, the Council affirmed its commitment to the "sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and national unity" of East Timor and expressed its strong support for the leadership of the island nation as it assumed authority for governing the country.

The Council also recognized that the people and democratically elected Government of East Timor bore the ultimate responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of a viable State and expressed its confidence that they would demonstrate the necessary political will and determination to fulfil their aspirations.

The statement welcomed the Government's commitment to develop "close and strong relations" with Indonesia, along with Jakarta's stated readiness to cooperate with East Timor towards building a peaceful, unified and sustainable society.

As for the challenges facing East Timor after independence, the Council noted with concern the shortcomings in a number of "critical public administration elements." It reaffirmed that strong international commitment would be required in East Timor to ensure continued stability and development of the country for some time after independence and expressed its confidence that the new UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) would help consolidate and strengthen a stable environment in the country.

The Council also voiced its deep appreciation for the efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who headed the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). It noted with satisfaction the UN's role in restoring peace to the territory and in building a solid foundation for a democratic, viable and stable country.

Speaking at the outset of the Council's meeting, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said the historic birth of East Timor as the first independent nation of the new millennium was a moment of inspiration for the entire international community.

"The people of East Timor have set an example to other nations in their steadfast adherence to the core values of the Charter - to reconciliation and the creation of democratic institutions that can safeguard human rights," Ms. Fréchette said. "Their focus on the future, rather than on the past, augurs well for the future."

In urging the international community to remain "generously committed" to East Timor, Ms. Fréchette noted that the country faced enormous long-term challenges in reducing poverty, building a viable economy and consolidating its fragile new institutions.

"The Security Council's decision to authorize a multidimensional follow-on operation - the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor - testifies to its commitment to completing the tasks that it has undertaken," the Deputy Secretary-General said. "It is a clear demonstration of the Council's conviction that there must be 'no exit without strategy.'"

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