Ramos-Horta said he sympathized with Indonesia’s wish to retain the two provinces, where independence movements are active, but Jakarta must address the needs of the local populations with compassion and vision.
“If they do not give up on violence against the legitimate claims of these people then the problem will drag on and maybe they will reach a point of no return where the only option left (is) secession by these regions,” Ramos-Horta told Nine Network television.
“However, I believe that Jakarta has now a golden opportunity to really make serious efforts in meeting halfway the Acehnese and the Irianese,” he said.
East Timor recently broke away from Indonesia after voting for independence.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard should raise violence and human rights issues during talks with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Jakarta this week, Ramos-Horta said.
“It would be unwise for Australia to ignore the growing conflict,” he said.
“Of course I would agree that Australia shouldn’t too publicly lecture the new president,” the minister said.
“We must give her the benefit of the doubt, give her time to consolidate her administration, to pursue the dialogue that she has promised with the regions, so I would caution against any public lecturing, any public criticism for the time being,” he said.
Ramos-Horta said he opposed the U.S. and Australia restoring defense ties with Indonesia that were cut over East Timor.
“I don’t think Indonesia needs weapons at the moment. What it needs is debt relief, it needs investments, it needs financial economic assistance, humanitarian assistance,” he said.
East Timorese transitional government leader Xanana Gusmao has discussed making a visit to Jakarta, and there had been positive reaction, Ramos-Horta said.
“President Xanana Gusmao has been on the phone with her (Megawati’s) husband and there are indications that soon we will be able to meet with her in Jakarta,” he said.