Fischer agrees to long-term aid in Aceh

11th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 February 2005, BANDA ACEH - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, touring Indonesia's tsunami-devastated province of Aceh, said on Friday his government was prepared provide reconstruction aid to the area on a long-term basis. "We are ready for a long-term involvement. What we need now is the transitional period, some emergency aid to reconstruction," Fischer told reporters after visiting the Aceh capital's General Hospital, Zainoel Abidin, where the German Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is located. "

11 February 2005

BANDA ACEH - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, touring Indonesia's tsunami-devastated province of Aceh, said on Friday his government was prepared provide reconstruction aid to the area on a long-term basis.

"We are ready for a long-term involvement. What we need now is the transitional period, some emergency aid to reconstruction," Fischer told reporters after visiting the Aceh capital's General Hospital, Zainoel Abidin, where the German Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is located.

"We're ready to engage ourselves in reconstruction for a period of five years," he said. The German government has pledged EUR 500 million, while another EUR 400 to 500 million will come from private sources in Germany, he added.

"There is a need for political decision-making. There is a need for planning. Let's go to work," he said.

After arrived at Banda Aceh's airport on Friday morning, Fischer immediately toured the area worst hit by the tsunami and visited German relief workers in the province.

He was the latest in a series of foreign dignitaries to visit the province since the massive earthquake and tsunami flattened thousands of homes and other buildings along Aceh's coastline on 26 December.

After meeting with German aid workers at the local non-governmental organization's (NGO) camps in Lhoknga sub-district, Fischer said there would be changes in his country's aid strategy in Indonesia.

"There will be a change now because there is a transformation between emergency aid and reconstruction," Fischer told reporters after seeing the destruction first hand.

Aceh was the hardest hit area in the region by the disaster due to its close proximity to the epicentre of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that sent gigantic waves inland.

The confirmed death toll in Indonesia from the tsunami was tallied at 117,019 on Friday, with nearly 232,000 listed as either dead or missing, according to the Health Ministry data.

After visiting Lhoknga, the foreign affairs minister then visited the camp of the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). During his tour in Aceh, Fischer was accompanied by Indonesia's transportation minister, Hatta Radjasa.

Fischer said his government would reconsider the German military presence in Aceh after the emergency period was concluded.

"Emergency aid is coming to an end and we will reconsider whether the military will continue to stay," he said.

Fischer expressed his appreciation of the Indonesian government's move to hold talks with Aceh separatist leaders in order to find a peaceful solution to the prolonged conflict in Aceh.

Leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) held talks with the Jakarta government in Helsinki, Finland, last month in a bid to end decades of fighting.

The talks were concluded with no formal pact to end hostilities, but the Indonesian government has expressed its willingness to continue talks with Aceh rebels, insisting that there must be a clear agenda towards a comprehensive solution to the conflict in the tsunami-ravaged province.

The last peace talks between GAM and Jakarta collapsed in May 2003 and the government declared martial law in the province, simultaneously launching a massive military offensive against the rebels to crush the movement.

GAM has been fighting for independence in Aceh province since 1976. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, mostly civilians.

The visit to Banda Aceh caps Fischer's nine-day tour of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

DPA

Subject: German news

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