Indonesian leader praises Finns for contribution to Aceh peace process
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his gratitude to the Finns for their contribution to the Aceh peace process on Tuesday while paying a state visit to Finland after the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari served as a mediator in the talks between the Jakarta administration and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) last year, and the peace treaty for Indonesia's embattled Aceh Province was eventually signed in Helsinki in August 2005.
Under the peace treaty Aceh Province was granted an autonomous position as a part of Indonesia.
"I wish to thank the Finns for their role in bringing peace to Aceh", said Yudhoyono at a press conference held together with President Tarja Halonen on Tuesday.
"The two most critical stages of the peace process have now succeeded. The first part of the operation was the disarmament of the GAM guerrillas and the withdrawal of Indonesian forces. The second was a new law setting out the terms of Aceh's autonomy", Yudhoyono reported.
"The next critical stage will be Aceh's local elections in December. However, I'm convinced that we will be able to have democratic, fair, and peaceful elections", Yudhoyono concluded.
The peace pact that ended decades of armed conflict has led to the names of both Yudhoyono and Ahtisaari being put forward as candidates for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced in Oslo on October 13th.
In addition, presidents Yudhoyono and Halonen discussed the relations between Indonesia and Finland. During the visit, the two nations concluded a new treaty on promoting and protecting investments, apparently to encourage bilateral investments.
Further topics included the reconstruction of Aceh after the December 2004 tsunami, as well as the Middle East crisis.
Indonesia has resolved to join the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNIFIL) in Lebanon with a battalion of soldiers, involving around 1,000 men.
"Indonesia is offering its troops in order to prove that it has committed itself to the peace process. Some states have decided to send troops, while some others will support the operation by providing other resources", Yudhoyono noted.
President Halonen said further that Indonesia's participation in the peace process is particularly valuable because of the multicultural dimension it brings to the operation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Book on Aceh could raise hopes for Ahtisaari Nobel Peace Prize (1.9.2006)
Thousands in Aceh celebrate as peace treaty is signed in Helsinki (16.8.2005)
The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)
Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Tarja Halonen at the state dinner held in honour of the President of Indonesia on 12 September 2006