East Timor Crisis: Nato reluctant to dispatch forces
The growing pressure to dispatch some kind of armed peace-keeping force to the territory raises anxious questions. Who will provide such a force? What will its mandate be? And how will it be reconciled with the complex politics of East Asia?
With Nato countries already heavily committed in Kosovo, there will be great reluctance to commit more troops in a place so geographically and emotionally distant from European and American voters.
Since the handover of Hong Kong, the United States is the only Western power with any significant military presence in Asia and it is preoccupied with tension over Taiwan and North Korea.
The obvious candidate is Australia, the closest developed country to East Timor and Indonesia, and the one with the most to lose from any deterioration in the security situation there. Since June the First Brigade, the vanguard of Australia's rapid-reaction force, has been carrying out manoeuvres near Darwin, the country's northernmost city.
The Australian government has denied that the exercises have anything to do with the situation in East Timor, but the presence of such a force strongly suggests that preparations for the evacuation of Australian and other foreign nationals are well in hand.
Earlier this month Canberra was embarrassed by a report in an Australian newspaper that the government had made plans for a joint operation with the US to send 15,000 troops to East Timor in the event of uncontrolled violence there. Governments in Canberra have traditionally been wary of doing anything to offend the government of Indonesia, their huge, over- populated and unstable northern neighbour.
After Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1976, only Australia recognised it.
Yesterday's suggestion by Don McKinnon, New Zealand's Foreign Minister, that non-UN peace-keepers might have to be sent was quickly quashed by the Australian Foreign Ministry.
But the UN's record on East Timor is also poor. Until the fall last year of the Indonesian president, Suharto, the Security Council avoided the subject rather than embarrass its stalwart anti-Communist friend.
The UN-brokered deal which allowed Monday's referendum on independence clearly states that only the Indonesian police have any power to enforce security in East Timor.
The terms of deployment would probably take weeks of negotiation and might be vetoed in the Security Council by China, which has its own reasons for opposing foreign interference in internal affairs, especially on humanitarian grounds.
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 3 Group of students refused entry to Leicester nightclub 'because they are black'
- 4 Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
- 5 Arsenal fan asks the Queen for tickets to the FA Cup final - gets a reply from Buckingham Palace
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: Dublin in party mood ahead of historic poll result
Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...