HC Deb 14 July 1998 vol 316 cc169-70
1. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

If he will make a statement on the recent EU troika mission to East Timor. [48701]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

At the initiative of the British presidency, EU troika ambassadors in Jakarta visited East Timor from 27 to 30 June. The purpose of the visit was to mark the EU's continuing concern about the situation in the territory, to improve our knowledge of the situation there and to support the UN search for a fair, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the problem. Their report was considered yesterday at the meeting of the General Affairs Council, which welcomed their initiative and their report. I record the appreciation of the House for the courage and determination of our ambassador and his colleagues in carrying out the visit in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances.

Ann Clwyd

I welcome the troika's visit and look forward to reading its report. Has any pressure been put on the Indonesian Government to have a referendum in East Timor, as required by UN decolonisation rules, so that the people of East Timor can decide for themselves the kind of future that they want? Before we give any more financial assistance to Indonesia, should not one of the conditions be progress towards that referendum? It is worth pointing out to the Indonesian Government that their presence in East Timor costs $1 million a day, a sum which they can hardly afford in the circumstances.

Mr. Cook

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that it is repeatedly pointed out to Indonesia that part of the process towards financial restructuring must be political reform, and that that must go side by side with the IMF packages. With regard to the will of the people of East Timor, my hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the troika ambassadors' conclusion was as follows: It is our impression that there will be no lasting solution in East Timor without a firm commitment to some form of direct consultation of the will of the people there. That report was published yesterday and is, of course, being made available to the Indonesian Government.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I welcome the Foreign Secretary's response to the original and the supplementary questions, but does he accept that Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world, that it holds an important position in its part of the world and that, despite its current political and economic problems, it is a country with which we should have on-going constructive communication and contact at all times?

Mr. Cook

I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that we do do that. Only recently, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), visited Indonesia, when he met a variety of figures from Indonesian politics, including Xanana Gusmao, the imprisoned East Timorese leader. I entirely agree that Indonesia is one of the largest countries in the world and will one day will have one of the largest economies. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that, in the words of the Indonesian Foreign Minister as he expressed it once to me, East Timor prevents Indonesia from taking its full and rightful place on the world stage; it is a pebble inside his shoe which limits Indonesia's place on the world stage.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)

The Foreign Secretary will be aware that oil production is about to commence in the waters off the coast of East Timor. What steps can he take to ensure that the people of East Timor benefit from the revenues from that production rather than the Indonesian Government as a result of their illegal occupation?

Mr. Cook

The best way to ensure that the people of Indonesia benefit is to ensure that Indonesia is served by a democratic, accountable system of government. We remain in close dialogue with the Indonesian Government, pressing on them the importance of that, not just in the interests of the people of Indonesia but in the interests of the Indonesian economy.