Timorese soldiers to join UN missions from 2020 as part of Portugal’s quota
Timorese soldiers, some of which will be trained in Portugal, are from next year onwards to form part of the Portuguese quotas assigned by the United Nations to peacekeeping missions, according to Portugal’s Minister of National Defence, João Gomes Cravinho.
“Portugal and East Timor will work together in peacekeeping operations,” the minister told Lusa in Dili, the capital of Timor. “We believe that by 2020 it will be possible to achieve this goal. It will be a way of giving concrete experience in peacekeeping operations to the Timorese military.”
The idea of Timorese military personnel joining UN peacekeeping operations as part of Portugal’s quotas has been discussed both bilaterally and within UN institutions, as a means of enabling East Timor to take part in international missions.
“It is also a way that East Timor can pay back the great support of the international community in the early years of their independence, by providing military personnel for peace operations in other parts of the world,” Cravinho said.
He noted that there are already Timorese soldiers being trained in special operations in Lamego, in northern Portugal, describing them as individuals “with every capacity to correspond to the extremely demanding requirements of UN missions”.
There will, he said, be the need for a period of preparation in Portugal, as they will be sending some of their own forces to meet the UN quota as well as the Timorese troops, but “we will work on this and we believe that in 2020 we can already implement this idea.”
The matter was one of those on the agenda of meetings that Cravinho had in Dili with the Timorese authorities, including his counterpart Filomeno Paixão, the Timorese PM, Taur Matan Ruak, and the President, Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres.
Cravinho, who on Sunday concluded a three-day official visit to Dili, was in the capital representing Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, at events to mark the 20th anniversary of the referendum in which the Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence.
It was, he said, an opportunity to celebrate the “extraordinary” progress made since the referendum, and to assure the authorities in Dili that “Portugal is with them today, as it has been over these 20 years”.
On bilateral cooperation, Cravinho said that Portugal is ready to “support the new challenges confronting East Timor” especially in regards to the current “training phase of the armed forces” of the country.
One of the areas of cooperation is to be in supporting the creation of a national maritime authority – the legislation for which is to be laid before the cabinet shortly. The model for the authority is to be similar to that of Portugal.
“The message I take back home is that on the Timorese side there is the expectation and willingness to continue this great connection” with Portugal, the former colonial power, Cravinho told Lusa. “Portugal is a major symbol in the heart of the Timorese and we have an obligation to reciprocate and correspond to that reality.”
Portugal’s support to the East Timor Defence Forces began even before the 20th of May 2002, the date that independence was formally restored, with the signing of a technical military cooperation agreement between the two countries.
Portugal selected, trained and prepared the 600-strong battalion that marched on the Timor Independence Day, and donated two Albatroz-class speedboats.
The most recent agreement, signed in 2017, focuses in particular on institutional and human resources capacity building and the reinforcement of the use of the Portuguese language.