Timor-Leste has made remarkable progress, but still needs help - UN official

20 February 2004

While Timor-Leste has progressed impressively since gaining independence, the fragility of its national security means that the United Nations should maintain a presence there for a year beyond the end of its mission’s mandate in May, a senior UN peacekeeping official said today.

Presenting a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Security Council that Timor-Leste, the poorest country in Southeast Asia, “continues to face significant challenges for which it will require international assistance.”

Mr. Guéhenno’s list of challenges included developing public administration capabilities, conducting serious crimes investigations and improving internal security and law enforcement, as well as external security and border control.

With regard to Indonesia, he said, “Agreement on the border and practical arrangements for its management have not yet been reached and the potential for tensions or destabilizing actions remains within communities in the Western Districts.”

UN military observers have been supporting close relationships between Timorese and Indonesian border personnel, Mr. Guéhenno said, recommending that “a small group of military liaison officers could be retained along the border to discharge similar functions for a further year after 20 May 2004.”

Echoing this view, Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister, José Ramos-Horta, said with the country’s institutions of law and order still precarious, UN peacekeeping would constitute the best guarantee against any recurrence of instability. An extended mandate for the mission, he said, would provide time and space for the country to strengthen its defence and police forces.

Some 30 countries participated in the debate, widely hailing Timor-Leste’s recent progress. While welcoming improved relations between that country and Indonesia, delegates urged both to resolve issues related to border demarcation and refugees. The proposed extension of a reduced UN mission for one year beyond the current mandate received wide support, with participants urging a focus on security and policing.


Video of the Council meeting [3hrs 21mins]


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