FORUM INTERESTED IN EAST TIMOR TIES

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SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT March 2, 1999

The Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, Mr. Noel Levi, CBE, has welcomed what he described as the positive developments in East Timor.

His comments follow a meeting yesterday with Nobel Peace Prize winner and East Timor independence activist Mr. Jose Ramos Horta.

During the meeting, Mr. Horta briefed the Secretary General on the historical background of East Timor and recent developments that will affect the future of the East Timorese people, more particularly the latest move by Indonesia that would consider giving East Timor more autonomy and self-determination.

He said that East Timor would be trying to develop closer ties with countries of the South Pacific region and that one of its goals was to seek observer status at the South Pacific Forum, as a prelude to eventually becoming a full member.

In response, the Secretary General welcomed the briefing on developments in East Timor and noted the interest to forge closer ties with South Pacific Forum member countries.

Mr. Ramos-Horta shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with his fellow countryman Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximense Belo.

The Forum member countries are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For additional information: Ulafala Aiavao (UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj)

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