Given the fragile security situation in Timor-Leste, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to that country today called on the Security Council to establish a new, larger United Nations mission there.
Ian Martin said the Council should not see the request as a reversion to an earlier stage of engagement with the tiny South-East Asian nation, which the UN shepherded to full independence from Indonesia in 2002.
“Timor-Leste is today a sovereign State which struggled hard for its right to self-determination and its independence,” said Mr. Martin.
He told the Council that the violence that rocked the country earlier this year revealed a central failure in the area of security. Dozens were killed and 155,000 people forced to flee their homes after clashes broke out when the government dismissed some 600 soldiers who had gone on strike.
In a report last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Council to establish the new mission in Timor-Leste to help rebuild its institutions, bring about national reconciliation and assist in national elections scheduled for next year.
The Special Envoy echoed this call, saying the Council should “send a strong message to the people of Timor-Leste that the renewed determination of the international community to stand by them will indeed be a sustained commitment.”
Also addressing the Council, which heard today from some two dozen participants, was Timor-Leste’s foreign minister, who offered his full support of the Secretary-General’s plan, including the call for an additional force of 1,600 civilian police officers.
“Many guns remain in civilian hands, and the underlying causes of the conflict remain to be fully addressed,” Jose Luis Guterres told the Council. “It will take time for us to reconstitute the defence and the police force. It will take many more years for these institutions to regain the confidence and trust of our people.”
Mr. Guterres also said that the new mission should play an important role in promoting economic growth and achieving development goals.
“Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world,” he said, adding that high unemployment, especially among young people, contributed to the recent unrest.
Currently, the United Nations has a special political mission carrying out peace-building activities in the country. The mandate of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), which the Security Council established last year, expires on 20 August.