DILI, East Timor – East Timor is ready to take charge of its own security and UN peacekeepers should be able to leave on schedule by the end of the year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, August 15.
The current UN deployment — the United Nations Integrated Mission in East Timor — came in 2006, after a political crisis in which dozens were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, with a mandate to restore security.
But the only major violence since then was a 2008 failed assassination attempt against former president Jose Ramos-Horta.
“Our assessment team’s recommendation is that Timor-Leste (East Timor) does not need UN peacekeeping operations at this time,” Ban said after arriving in the country on a two-day visit and holding talks with President Taur Matan Ruak.
“It is in this positive atmosphere that the United Nations is preparing for the withdrawal of UNMIT at the end of the year,” he said later in a speech before parliament.
The largely peaceful presidential polls in March and April and general elections last month were seen by the UN as a test of East Timor’s stability.
Strong police force
In the presidential polls, Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta lost to former guerrilla leader Ruak, while the legislative vote saw the ruling party of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao win the largest number of seats.
“The national police force of Timor-Leste have strengthened their capacity, have successfully helped with three rounds of presidential and parliamentary elections,” Ban said, referring to the country by its formal name.
East Timor, an impoverished half-island nation of 1.1 million despite bountiful oil and gas reserves off its coasts, in May celebrated a decade of formal independence, which ended a brutal 24-year occupation by Indonesia.
Some 183,000 people died from fighting, disease and starvation during the occupation, which lasted until a vote on independence in 1999.
About 1,300 UN peacekeepers still remain in the country. – Agence France-Presse
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