MEDIA RELEASE

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
AUSTRALIA

D14

2 August 1999

Press Articles On Australia-US Discussions On East Timor

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has categorically denied recent press reports of differences in Australian and United States' approaches to resolution of the East Timor issue.

An article in the Australian Financial review of 31 July refers to "tense exchanges in recent meetings between the US's Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Stanley Roth, and the head of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ashton Calvert". The article says: "The two met during the visit of the Prime Minister, John Howard, to Washington earlier this month." An article in the Sunday Age of 1 August also refers to a recent meeting in the United States between Dr Calvert and Mr Roth.

In fact, there have been no meetings between Dr Calvert and Mr Roth for more than five months. Apart from their participation in the meeting a week ago in Singapore between Foreign Minister Downer and Secretary of State Albright, the last time that Dr Calvert met Mr Roth was February 1999 in Washington. This meeting canvassed the full range of possible approaches to a resolution on East Timor. Aside from the fact that these discussions predated the New York tripartite agreements of 5 May, and are therefore of more historical than current interest, it is wrong to say that significant differences were exposed in the policies of our two Governments. There was, in fact, close agreement on a wide range of East Timor-related issues.

Our own very clear public position on peace keeping was, and has remained, that we wished to see an orderly and peaceful transition in East Timor, whether to independence or some other status within Indonesia. We have consistently expressed a willingness to be involved in any United Nations transitional arrangements, including the military component of such arrangements.

In all discussions between Dr Calvert, other officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and officials of the Department of Defence with United States' officials at all levels in the past five months on East Timor, there has been a quite remarkable degree of consistency and compatibility between us. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.

We have and will continue to work closely with the United States and other interested parties as planning progresses for the UN's role in East Timor.

Media Inquiries: Tony Melville 02 6261 1555