- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

Indonesia in review

From massacres in East Timor to the first free democratic elections in decades, Indonesia experienced a diplomatic roller-coaster ride last year, especially with its relations with the United States.
"Throughout 1999, bilateral relations between Indonesia and the U.S. have reached the lowest and highest points in many years," Indonesian Ambassador Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti said.
As the two countries marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties last year, Washington was outraged at the slaughter in East Timor by anti-independence militias linked to the Indonesian military.
By year's end, Indonesia had approved independence for East Timor, and the Clinton administration was expressing strong support for the new president, Abdurrahman Wahid. U.S. officials, citing rumors of a planned coup, also warned the Indonesian military against overthrowing the the civilian government.
The ambassador reflected on 1999 and predicted that Indonesia will adopt political reforms, improve human rights and continue on the road to economic recovery from the Asian financial crisis.
"The election of President Abdurrahman Wahid in October and the establishment of the new government have to a certain degree restored international confidence," Mr. Kuntjoro-Jakti wrote.
He noted a "significant improvement in relations" with the United States after the election, especially with Mr. Wahid's visit to Washington for talks with President Clinton in November.
"However, the positive developments such as the flourishing freedom of the press, the release of political prisoners and encouragement of pluralistic political aspiration depicted in the 48 political parties participating in the general elections were overshadowed by other unfortunate incidents," he wrote.
"The tendency to focus mainly on religious and ethnic strife in some parts of Indonesia and the … violence in East Timor, as well as other human-rights related issues, has on occasion put aside other positive developments altogether."
Mr. Kuntjoro-Jakti noted that the last 50 years of U.S.-Indonesian relations have been marked by more areas of understanding than disagreement.
"Let us hope and work together that the next 50 years of relations … will be as cordial as the previous ones," he wrote.

An uncertain peace

An envoy for the Organization of American States yesterday cited progress in peace talks between Honduras and Nicaragua, but he warned that tensions still remain over a disputed border in the Caribbean Sea.
"The combination of an uncertain peace with the existence of sanctions and the risk of reprisals can seriously harm the [two countries], the Central American region and ultimately the situation in the hemisphere if [the dispute] continues," Ambassador Luigi Einaudi said in a report to the OAS.
Mr. Einaudi, a retired U.S. diplomat, was appointed as a peace envoy in December after Honduras and Nicaragua nearly came to blows over 52,000 square miles of water rich in fish and possibly with undersea oil reserves.
OAS ambassadors Laura Nunez of Honduras and Alvaro Sevilla of Nicaragua insisted that their countries are committed to a peaceful resolution.
OAS Secretary-General Ceasar Gaviria praised Honduras and Nicaragua for the progress they have made but warned "there are still important risks."

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