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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Situation in Timor-Leste

Susan E. Rice
Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York City
February 19, 2009



(Remarks as Delivered)

Thank you, Mr. President.

I’m particularly pleased that we are joined today by President José Ramos-Horta, and we welcome very much, Mr. President, your very thoughtful and comprehensive statement to the Council. We also appreciate the Secretary-General’s presence and his comprehensive statement as well.

We are heartened to see the progress that has been made over the last year, particularly in the wake of the bloodshed of 2006 and last year’s attempts on the lives of both President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao. The people of Timor-Leste and their leaders have shown great courage as they strive to bring peace and stability to their country.

We also commend the Secretary General, his Special Representative Mr. Atul Khare and the UN’s Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste for the key role they have played in assisting Timor-Leste in this process. We concur wholeheartedly with the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend UNMIT’s mandate for one year at its current composition and strength and we will look to UNMIT to continue to play a central role in Timor-Leste, particularly as the National Police prepare to resume policing responsibility and the justice sector builds its capacity.

The United States believes that development and security go hand in hand and one cannot move forward without the other. The Secretary General’s report noted a rise in poverty in the country. Our concern for the most vulnerable in Timor-Leste – the poor and the displaced—is also indeed growing. We commend the Government of Timor-Leste for returning nearly all displaced persons home and resolving the petitioner issue. For lasting stability, however, Timor-Leste will need to continue development efforts—in particular in rural areas—and work to lower unemployment rates.

Timor-Leste cannot stand on its own without a fully-functioning security sector. We very much appreciate UNMIT’s careful planning process to enable the PNTL to gradually resume policing responsibility. Throughout this process, Timorese officers will require continued training in order to meet the security challenges in their country. UNMIT must be diligent about delineating responsibility between the PNTL and UNMIT police. The leadership in Timor-Leste, in concert with the international community, should work to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the nation’s military in relation to the police and civilian oversight of both the police and military should be strengthened.

Future progress in Timor-Leste requires a responsive, independent justice sector. We support the efforts by the Secretary General and his Special Representative to promote a coordinated approach to justice sector reform and stress the critical need to reduce the backlog of cases and establish a comprehensive legal system to hold criminals responsible.

Finally, we encourage the international community to help the government of Timor-Leste to hold the local elections that are planned for this year. We hope that UNMIT—acting under the terms of its mandate to enhance democratic rule and advance political dialogue—will also work to ensure that the vote goes smoothly.

The achievements made in Timor-Leste give its people a great deal to be proud of. President Ramos-Horta, we salute the determination shown by you, Prime Minister Gusmao, and your government. We also offer our thanks again to Special Representative Khare, the dedicated UNMIT staff that work alongside you and the UN country team. And we deeply appreciate the labors and sacrifices of the bilateral and multilateral partners in Timor-Leste and the diligent efforts of the international security forces working there to help maintain law and stability. The people of Timor-Leste still have much to do, but they must know that they do not stand alone.

Thank you very much.

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