East Timor, not trade, to dominate APEC summit
September 10, 1999
From staff and wire reports
AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Pacific Rim nations began a summit Friday to discuss international trade, but the topic that will dominate the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will be East Timor, where Indonesian-backed militias have gone on a deadly rampage following a vote for independence last week.
The United States, ahead of a forum appearance by President Bill Clinton, suspended its military ties with Indonesia, as did New Zealand, the host of the weekend economic summit.
Australia considered doing the same but announced that it would continue with planned military exercises with Indonesia. Australia decided against severing all military relations at the request of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Australian minister lobbies for peacekeepers
At the APEC summit in Auckland, however, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer continued efforts to broaden an international peacekeeping force in East Timor. Australia has proposed leading the force.
Clinton said he planned to raise the East Timor crisis with APEC leaders at the annual meeting. East Timor "will obviously be an important part of our discussions in New Zealand," he said, dashing hopes of some APEC attendees that a Thursday meeting of international ministers had dealt with the crisis and that the focus would return to economic issues.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said she would not allow East Timor to intrude into the official agenda but acknowledged it would dominate surrounding talks.
Resistance leader calls for international invasion
East Timor resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta flew in for the meeting, pleading for an end to the "genocide" of several thousand of his people in recent days. He urged international peacekeepers to enter the province by force.
Shipley said she had assured Ramos-Horta that the matter "would get equal attention to the other important matters that the APEC (leaders') meeting will actually formally consider on Sunday and Monday."
Parts of the Indonesian military have supported pro-Jakarta militias engaged in a killing, burning and looting spree since East Timor voted overwhelmingly on August 30 for independence from Indonesia.
Southeast Asian delegates want more talk on trade
World leaders have suggested that unless the violence ends in East Timor, economic sanctions may be imposed on Indonesia, which receives billions of dollars in aid from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other development institutions.
Thailand said it did not believe sanctions would ease the crisis.
Many Southeast Asian politicians objected to the prominence of East Timor at the APEC conference, which they consider an issue that the United Nations should handle.
Many delegates hope the discussion would focus on international trade. More global trade talks are planned for Seattle in November.
Asia-Pacific seeks common ground for trade talks
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