Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign And Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Dear Mrs Beckett
I am writing to urge U.K. support for a fully integrated UN mission in Timor-Leste. Australia’s wish to keep its troops under separate command is not in Timor-Leste’s interest and will make international support for Timor-Leste in its current crisis less effective. Such an arrangement will also exacerbate resentment toward Australia among the Timorese people.
In response to Timor-Leste’s recent crisis, the UN has expanded its mission for Timor-Leste. In creating UNMIT (United Nations Intergrated Mission in Timor-Leste) on August 25, the UN Security Council deferred deciding on whether the bulk of its military component should be part of the UN mission or remain under Australian Command. A Final decision on the military command structure will be made after the Secretary-General reports on the issue October 25.
While Australia has placed its police within a unified UN police force, it has insisted on keeping its military troops (the majority of the multinational force deployed in late May at the request of Timor-Leste government) under Australian command. This position is contrary to the recommendation of the UN Secretary-General and to the wishes of Timor-Leste and other governments who prefer a unified military force integrated into the UN mission. The U.S. and UK support Australia.
Australia’s insistence on keeping its troops under a separate, national command structure will make coordination difficult, lessening the confidence and security that the UNMIT is intended to provide for the people of Timor-Leste. It will also increase already heightened suspicion amoung many East-Timorese of the motives of the Australian forces.
The Timore-Leste NGO Forum has also urged an integrated mission, saying that “there will be a greater degree of accountability for UN forces as it is a civilian led, international, neutral institution.” The group added, “There is an inherently unequal relationship in Timor-Leste’s dealings with other more powerful countries on a bilateral basis. Working though the UN would avoid this situation..”
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