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Hope for Zinni peace trip to Indonesia

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  • Muzakkir Abdul Hamid
    Hope for Zinni peace trip to Indonesia From the International Desk Published 8/9/2002 8:10 PM View printer-friendly version JAKARTA, Indonesia, Aug. 9 (UPI) --
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 10, 2002
      Hope for Zinni peace trip to Indonesia

      From the International Desk
      Published 8/9/2002 8:10 PM
      View printer-friendly version

      JAKARTA, Indonesia, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- After three days of talks this week with separatist guerillas in Aceh, retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni appears to have brought representatives of the breakaway province and of Indonesia's government one step closer to the negotiating table.

      On Friday Indonesian authorities announced they and the Henry Dunant Center, which Zinni is representing as a mediator, now agree on a key point of an accord the two sides signed in May in Geneva, Switzerland, the center's headquarters.

      "It is not true that special autonomy is the first step to hold referendum by which the Acehnese will decide what they want," said Indonesian minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "It is clear now there is no difference of opinion between the Henry Dunant Center and its adviser and the Indonesian government," the online version of the Indonesian magazine Tempo reported Yudhoyono as saying.

      The trick now for Zinni will be to bring the Free Aceh Movement into agreement, which most observers in the region believe will be difficult. The group, known by its Indonesian initials GAM, wants to follow the lead of East Timor, a province that won full independence from Indonesia in 1999.

      Indonesia is reluctant to let go of Aceh, a resource-rich region positioned near a key shipping lane where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean. Last year the government offered an autonomy package that would allow limited self-rule.

      The May accord laid out intentions to work for a ceasefire and autonomy but stopped short of mechanisms to accomplish them.

      Zinni arrived Monday in Indonesia and met with GAM leaders before heading to Jakarta for talks with government officials. He has urged both sides to return to negotiations, declaring that route -- not the military crackdown that Indonesian Megawati Sukarnoputri has threatened -- is the only option for lasting peace.

      "I think all sides are convinced that the way to peace is through dialogue. And I'm convinced we have the momentum now and it will be important for all sides to cooperate to build that momentum into a peaceful resolution," he told reporters on Thursday.

      Zinni, who carries a reputation of a straightforward and resolute negotiator, has experience on behalf of the United States in such troubled countries as Somalia and Ethiopia. He most recently worked -- unsuccessfully -- toward bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to peace talks as the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East.

      Another retired U.S. general, Secretary of State Colin Powell, visited the region last week and spoke encouragingly of a broader relationship with Indonesia -- particularly with respect to its military, which has been under a three-year ban with the United States because of human rights violations in regions such as Aceh.

      On his own Indonesian trip however Zinni has made it clear he comes as a private citizen, an unpaid mediator affiliated only with the Henry Dutant Center.

      A U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed his status for United Press International on Friday, saying: "The center has put together a group of international wise men and Zinni is one of them."

      The spokesman added the State Department anticipates a briefing at some point but emphasized Zinni "is acting in a private capacity."

      Violence in Aceh continued during Zinni's visit there, with 10 men reportedly killed Monday and Tuesday. Unconfirmed reports also indicated that government troops shot a suspected militant on Friday.


      (Anwar Iqbal contributed to this report in Washington.)

      Copyright © 2002 United Press International

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