Australia will help in East Timor if requested: Downer

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Map of East Timor

Australian minister for foreign affairs, Alexander Downer (Mayo, Liberal), told the Australian House of Representatives on Tuesday that Australia would provide assistance to East Timor if the East Timorese government or United Nations requested it.

Northern Territory member, David Tollner (Solomon,Country Liberal), who has long had an interest in East Timorese affairs, asked Mr Downer to update the parliament on "recent developments in East Timor".

Riots in East Timor's capital Dilli killed five people on April 28 following a march supporting 600 East Timorese soldiers who were dismissed for deserting following complaints of discrimination between those from the east and west of East Timor. The Australian government issued a travel advisory for East Timor on May 4, 2006 advising Australians to avoid the country.

Mr Downer today told parliament that there was no indication of violence against foreigners despite the warning still being in place. He continued by saying that the government was "deeply concerned" and would continue to monitor the situation closely. "We have, in a number of ways, strongly urged the leaders of East Timor to resolve quickly and peacefully the differences that there are and, of course, to do so with full regard for the democratic institutions of the country, its constitution, the rule of law and international norms of human rights." said Mr Downer.

Parliament also heard that Australia had agreed with members of the United Nations Security Council to conduct a new operation in East Timor. "Australia does stand ready to offer assistance if requested by either the East Timor government directly or the United Nations." Mr Downer told parliament.

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