I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 18 and 53 together.
In accordance with the European Union's common position on East Timor, Ireland actively supports international efforts to promote respect for human rights and to bring about a just and peaceful solution to the East Timor question which fully respects the interests and legitimate aspirations of the Timorese people.
Despite assurances by the new administration of President Habibie in Jakarta, it would appear that there has been no withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor. There may even have been some increase in the total number of soldiers in the territory. There also appears to have been increased military activity in the countryside although the capital city of Dili has been relatively calm.
In recent months, nevertheless, a number of developments have occurred which may assist the efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the issue of East Timor. I am encouraged by the results of the meeting between the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal which took place in New York on 4-5 August last and were resumed at a further meeting last month. I welcomed the agreement on these occasions to enter into in-depth negotiations on issues related to the question of East Timor without prejudice to each side's basic positions of principle.
I also note with satisfaction the prospect for closer involvement of the East Timorese people in the search for a solution. It is clear that the will of the Timorese people is vital and must be fully taken into account if a satisfactory solution is to be achieved. It is not for us, however, to prejudge the final outcome of the process of self-determination in the territory of East Timor — this is a matter for the Timorese people. What is clear is that the option of independence should exist if that is the choice of the people.
I have had no direct contact in recent months with the Indonesian authorities on the question of East Timor. I hope, however, to travel to Jakarta in the coming months for the purpose of visiting the imprisoned resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao. I propose to avail of such an opportunity to have serious discussions with the Indonesians on the question of East Timor and other issues.
I wish to avail of this opportunity to pay tribute to all those in Ireland, particularly the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign whom I have met on a number of occasions, for their efforts in focusing attention on the plight of the Timorese people. I assure the House that I intend to continue working in support of all worthwhile initiatives which seek to improve the political, social and economic condition of the people of East Timor.