I visited East Timor today, Friday 15 April, to discuss Australia - East Timor defence and security cooperation with East Timorese leaders, and to meet Australian soldiers deployed in the International Stabilisation Force.
I met President Jose Ramos-Horta, Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres, Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa, Secretary of State for Defence Julio Pinto, Defence Force Chief Major General Taur Matan Ruak, and Opposition Leader Mari Alkatiri.
I also met the Acting Head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor, Finn Reske-Nielsen.
My meetings marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Australia's Defence Cooperation Program with East Timor in 2001.
East Timor's Defence Force also marks its 10th anniversary this year.
East Timorese leaders and I welcomed the continuing close security cooperation between Australia and East Timor, as well as East Timor's stability and peaceful growth during recent years.
As important, we looked to future bilateral defence cooperation, up to and after East Timor’s National Elections in 2012, and discussed the continuing, step-by-step transition of full security responsibility to the East Timorese authorities.
East Timorese leaders and I looked forward to further building Australia-East Timor defence engagement on the basis of shared security interests and mutual sovereignty.
During my visit I also welcomed the opportunity to meet some of the Australian soldiers deployed in the International Stabilisation Force, or ISF. I commended them for the fine job the ISF continues to do, five years after its initial deployment in 2006, to help safeguard East Timor's security.