Nobel winner offers help on peace talks, 15 January 2009

Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta is willing to help the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front broker a final peace deal but quashed proposals that he will be joining the negotiating panel.

Speaking to reporters after giving a lecture on conflict resolution at the Ateneo de Davao University, he admitted to have a little grasp of the conflict in Mindanao but was quick to add that his government’s assistance might not necessarily be on mediation given that peace negotiators are already doing their job.

“I know little about the Mindanao problem. I can only read, study and listen. I’ll be happy to help on the context not as a chief mediator. We can listen to the community consultations going on and we can provide information in how we do conflict resolution with Indonesia and other peace processes in the world,” Horta said.

The Nobel Peace Laureate emphasized the importance of language to reach a common understanding between the nego-tiating parties since the resolution of conflict does not lie in outside intervention. To start with, he said, both parties must return to the negotiating table without any preconditions.

“Let us not resume with talks like ‘lay down your arms.’ Talk and while talking, agree that there will no longer be killings, ambuscades, and all violence must stop. That is different from saying,’lay down your arm,’” he pointed out.

Horta maintained that disarmament can be resolved in the course of the discussion.
José Ramos Horta studied Public International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law and at Antioch University where he completed a Master of Arts degree in Peace Studies. He was trained in Human Rights Law at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg and attended Post-Graduate courses in American Foreign Policy at Columbia University in New York. He is a Senior Associate Member of the University of Oxford’s St Antony’s College.

Narrating his experience in the Indonesia-Timor Leste conflict resolution, he said Timor Leste groups seeking independence and the Indonesian government initially agreed to remove all contentious areas including human rights abuses by the Indonesian military.

“The immediate effect of the peace process must be felt first by the citizens on the communities as part of the confidence building measure before the two contending parties can advance to another level of the negotiations,” Horta said.

Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate winner in 1996, spoke about his knowledge in conflict resolution citing vast experiences in South Africa, Europe, South America, and the struggle for independence of Timor Leste under the Indonesian rule in 2002, following the invitation from the Ateneo and the International Peace Foundation.

He admitted their pursuit for independence in Timor Leste in 2002 was hastened by the Asian currency crisis and the political upheaval in Indonesia under the Suharto regime.
Also dubbed a “Patron of the International Peace Foundation,” Ramos-Horta was born in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father who had been exiled to what was then Portuguese Timor by the Salazar dictatorship. He was educated in a Catholic mission in the small village of Soibada. Of his 11 brothers and sisters, four were allegedly killed during the struggle between Fretilin and Indonesian military.

A moderate in the emerging Timorese nationalist leadership, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the “Democratic Republic of East Timor” government proclaimed by the pro-independence parties in November 1975 at the age of 25. He left East Timor to plead the Timorese case before the United Nations, three days before the Indonesian troops invaded Timor.

He arrived in New York to address the UN Security Council and urged them to take action in the face of the Indonesian military onslaught which would result in over 200,000 East Timorese deaths between 1976 and 1981. (with reports from Mindanews)

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