Tomorrow, Friday 15 April, I will visit East Timor to meet East Timorese leaders and visit Australian soldiers serving in the International Stabilisation Force.
This will be my first visit to East Timor as Minister for Defence.
In Dili I will meet President José Ramos-Horta, Vice Prime Minister José Luis Guterres, Secretary of State for Defence Julio Pinto, and Chief of East Timor’s Defence Force Major General Taur Matan Ruak.
I look forward to discussing with them the achievements and future direction of Australia – East Timor security cooperation.
I look forward also to meeting some of the 400 Australian soldiers serving in the International Stabilisation Force, or ISF. The ISF also includes a 75-member New Zealand detachment.
Since its deployment in May 2006 at the request of East Timor, 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.
My visit to East Timor will also mark the 10th anniversary of Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program with East Timor.
Valued at over $10 million this financial year, the Defence Cooperation Program with East Timor is one of Australia’s largest with any country.
Under the Defence Cooperation Program, Australia helps build the capability of East Timor’s defence force in areas including engineering, maritime security, logistics, financial management, communication and English language training.
Australia is committed to the long-term security and prosperity of East Timor.