Indonesian minister tonesdown foreign troop call

13th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 January 2005, BERLIN - Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hasan Wirajuda moved on Thursday to tone down demands by Jakarta that foreign troops aiding victims of the tsunami disaster leave within three months. Following talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer he said Indonesian officials had initially believed that after last month's Indian Ocean tsunami it would take a year just to deal with disaster relief and initial rebuilding of infrastructure. But he indicated the view had now changed and

13 January 2005

BERLIN - Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hasan Wirajuda moved on Thursday to tone down demands by Jakarta that foreign troops aiding victims of the tsunami disaster leave within three months.

Following talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer he said Indonesian officials had initially believed that after last month's Indian Ocean tsunami it would take a year just to deal with disaster relief and initial rebuilding of infrastructure.

But he indicated the view had now changed and that three months was now the target for what he termed "stability" with normal roads opening regular access stricken regions.

"We will perhaps not need as many helicopters to deliver aid," said Wirajuda, adding: "The presence of foreign troops is a sensitive matter - also for our public."

Wirajuda was careful, however, not to set any time limit on when foreign troops would have to leave.

Indonesian Vice President Yusuf Kalla was quoted earlier this week as saying foreign troops should leave Aceh province within three months. Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the US all have forces doing relief work in Aceh.

Fischer said such decisions were up to the Indonesian government and that a German hospital ship operating off the country's coast would stay as long as Jakarta wanted.

Wirajuda defended new restrictions on foreign aid workers and said they were aimed at protecting from rebels who, he said, had kidnapped journalists and aid workers in the past.

But the Indonesian Foreign Minister also insisted his country was keen on following up what he termed "gentlemen's agreement" with Aceh rebels.

The rebels, who have been waging a guerilla war with the government for almost three decades, proposed talks in an effort to assist aid efforts.

Wirajuda pledged his government would "try for more" with the rebels.

"Every cloud has its silver lining and we will make sure to make this silver lining a reality," he said.

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) proposed the ceasefire shortly after the devastating December 26 earthquake and ensuing tsunami which killed at least 106,000 people in the troubled region and made another 600,000 homeless.

Meanwhile, the German military supply ship Berlin arrived on Thursday morning off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province loaded with aid for tsunami survivors, the Bundeswehr said.

The Berlin is to support the Bundeswehr's emergency centre in Banda Aceh, the capital of the province hardest hit in the 26 December earthquake and tsunami.

On board are 45 hospital beds, two operating rooms and two helicopters. The ship also picked up rice, blankets, baby food and other goods on a stop in India. 

DPA

Subject: German news  

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