Today in Sydney I met with Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Security of the Democratic Republic of Timor?Leste.
Prime Minister Gusmao is in Australia on an official visit to Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne from 17 to 22 February.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Timor.
Australian and Timorese forces fought together against Japanese forces, who invaded Timor on 20 February 1942.
In May this year, East Timor will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its independence.
Prime Minister Gusmao and I discussed achievements and future direction of Australia-East Timor Defence and security cooperation.
We discussed the improvement in East Timor’s domestic security over the past three and a half years, as well as security preparations for the upcoming election period.
Nearly 400 Australian soldiers are currently serving in East Timor as part of the International Stabilisation Force (ISF). The ISF also includes a 70-member New Zealand detachment.
Since its deployment in May 2006, the ISF has helped safeguard East Timor’s security. It does so in partnership with East Timor’s security forces. The ISF has progressively drawn down to its current size consistent with the positive security situation in East Timor.
We discussed future bilateral defence cooperation, up to and after East Timor’s National Elections in coming months, and discussed the continuing, step-by-step transition of full security responsibility to East Timorese authorities. The transition process will be closely coordinated between East Timor, Australia, New Zealandand the United Nations.
Prime Minister Gusmao and I look forward to further building Australia-East Timor defence engagement on the basis of shared security interests and mutual sovereignty.
We discussed possible future capacity-building activities to be delivered as part of Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with East Timor. The DCP supports East Timor’s Defence Force and Secretariat of Defence through training, mentoring and exercises.
Mr Smith’s Office: (02) 6277 7800
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999