- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2000

Dealing with Indonesia

After 50 years of diplomatic relations, the United States should realize it has only limited power to influence domestic affairs in Indonesia, according to a panel of leading U.S. and Indonesian experts.

"Some things are best left to the Indonesians and others to multilateral institutions," said a report issued by the panel, which included Indonesian Ambassador Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti and former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Edward E. Masters.

"The United States and other foreign observers should let the new Indonesian government set the pace of development and the priorities and not attempt to dictate what should or should not be done."

Mr. Masters, now president of the United States-Indonesian Society, and Mr. Kuntjoro-Jakti released the report to coincide with the Dec. 30 anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations.

The panel met in October for a private, off-the-record discussion on the two countries at one of the lowest points in the relationship, as pro-Indonesian militias had been on a bloody rampage in East Timor and the West called on Indonesia to stop the killing.

Panel members agreed to release details of their discussion last month after Indonesia elected Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president in what was viewed as a free and fair election.

The panel noted that the United States helped bring pressure on the Netherlands to grant independence to its colony after a communist uprising in 1948.

After the Cold War, U.S. interests shifted "from emphasis on the stability of Indonesia … to a much narrower range of issues such as human rights, labor standards and environmental problems," the panel said.

Indonesian members of the panel believe "U.S. policy-makers and the Congress are poorly informed about Indonesia and overemphasize East Timor at the expense of broader and very constructive trends toward openness and democracy in Indonesia.

"The return of free and fair elections … promises to usher in a new era in U.S.-Indonesian political relations," the panel said.

The panel included Arifin Siregar, former Indonesian ambassador to the United States; Paul Gardner, former U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea; and J. Stapleton Roy and Paul Wolfowitz, both former U.S. ambassadors to Indonesia.

Mourning Dona Maria

The Spanish ambassador yesterday remembered the late mother of King Juan Carlos as a woman who helped transform Spain from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy.

Maria de las Mercedes de Borbon y Orleans, who died Sunday, was affectionately known as "Dona Maria," said Ambassador Antonio de Oyarzabal.

The countess of Barcelona, her formal title, "was a remarkable lady who played a discreet, yet important, role in the Spanish transition from Gen. [Francisco] Franco's regime to the present constitutional monarchy," he said.

"She was a good-natured, sensible and balanced voice of wisdom behind many of the most momentous decisions of those difficult moments," he added. "She rightly enjoyed a great popularity among Spaniards in all walks of life. We will all miss her."

A memorial service will be held Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Matthew's Cathedral, 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW.

Wooing North Korea

The United States has no problem with Italy's plan to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea, the State Department said yesterday.

"Our view has been that each country has to make its own decision on how to proceed toward a more normal relationship with North Korea as North Korea meets the international community's concerns on the nuclear and the missile front," department spokesman James P. Rubin said.

Mr. Rubin, addressing reporters at the Israeli-Syrian summit in West Virginia, said Rome had informed Washington about its intent to exchange ambassadors with the hard-line communist state.

Italy yesterday said it plans to assign its ambassador in China the additional duty of representing Rome in North Korea.

Italy is the sixth nation in the European Union to forge relations with North Korea, which already has diplomatic ties with Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Sweden.

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