The Guardian October 27, 1999


Cuban opinion on East Timor

Following correspondence from readers in Portugal and some other 
countries, Marelys Valencia Almeida in the Cuban newspaper Granma 
International explained Cuba's position on the UN peacekeeping force in 
East Timor.

I would like to present to you some elements demonstrating Cuba's 
recognition of East Timor's independence, but pointing to a tendency toward 
humanitarian intervention efforts which are not always very humanitarian. A 
recent note issued by the Cuban embassy in Portugal discusses this issue.

"Cuba feels there is a need, as an exceptional case, for the deployment of 
an international peacekeeping force under the strict supervision of the 
United Nations  taking into consideration what has happened recently in 
other conflicts, such as that of Kosovo  without hegemonic pretensions on 
the part of regional powers or power groups from outside the region."

The note goes beyond this point and expresses Cuba's disposition, as long 
as these requisites are met, to participate in the mission with a medical 
unit for the care of military personnel and the civilian population.

Once this multinational force completes its mission, we would be willing to 
send civilian medical brigades in sufficient numbers to continue providing 
services to the East Timor population for as long as necessary.

At the same time, "Cuba feels that the results of the August 30 referendum 
should be respected, so that the citizens of East Timor can achieve their 
independence on the basis of their sense of national identity, with a 
common culture and common interests."

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, in the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs' report to the National Assembly of People's Power, warned against 
foreign interference in certain conflicts.

Recalling the aggression against Yugoslavia, based on the pretext of 
"humanitarian intervention", he said there is an attempt to convince the 
world of the thesis that certain internal humanitarian considerations  
usually within a Third World country  justify foreign intervention, 
always with the United States at the lead.

In the case of East Timor, as I already explained, Cuba supports in this 
exceptional case the arrival in that territory of a multinational 
peacekeeping force coordinated by the United Nations. Cuba's recognition of 
the legitimacy of East Timor's independence is sincere.

In my personal opinion, that sentiment is in sharp contrast to the 
interests lurking behind the actions of some powerful countries, in the 
name of defending humanitarian rights.

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