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.