Today I depart Indonesia for Timor-Leste to discuss bilateral defence and security cooperation with senior Timorese leaders, and to visit members of Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) team in Dili.
This will be my second visit to Timor-Leste as Minister for Defence, following my visit in April 2011 to mark the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of Australia’s DCP with Timor-Leste.
While in Dili, I will meet with President Taur Matan Ruak, whom I last met in his former role of Chief of the Timor Leste Defence Force.
I will also meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Guterres, Secretary of State for Defence Julio Pinto, Chief of the Defence Force Major General Lere Anan Timur, and Fretilin Secretary General Mari Alkatiri.
I look forward to discussing with them the future of our bilateral defence cooperation, following the withdrawal of the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) and the successful conclusion of Operation ASTUTE.
Operation ASTUTE was the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability in Timor Leste, through the United Nations mandated and Australian-led ISF.
The last Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on Operation ASTUTE returned to Australia last week, 27 March. This also marked the end of the ISF.
The Australian-led ISF supported peace and stability in Timor-Leste since 2006. The ISF ceased its security operations on 22 November 2012, and then commenced withdrawal from Timor-Leste.
The 2012 national elections clearly demonstrated the ability of Timor-Leste security forces, both military and police, to manage domestic security. The security environment in Timor Leste continues to be calm and stable.
Australia’s defence engagement with Timor-Leste will continue through our DCP, which provides support to the Timor-Leste Defence Force and the civilian Secretariat of Defence through mentoring, infrastructure development, training and exercises.
I look forward to meeting with the 24 Australian military and civilian personnel who remain in Timor Leste under the auspices of the DCP.
Australia remains committed to strengthening our bilateral defence relationship with Timor Leste, as a natural part of the political, economic and social links between our two sovereign countries.
Minister Smith’s office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999