11 August 2006

In Message to Commemoration, Secretary-General Says Major Progress Achieved since Indonesian Government, Free Aceh Movement Signed Accord

NEW YORK, 10 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the conference commemorating the first anniversary of the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, to be held in Jakarta, 14 August:

I am delighted to send my greetings and congratulations to everyone who has gathered in Jakarta to mark a milestone toward lasting peace in Aceh.

One year ago, you embarked on a truly historic process.  Since then, there has been major progress.  The Government has withdrawn its troops from Aceh.  The Free Aceh Movement has handed over its declared arsenal of weapons and dissolved its armed wing.  And, last month, the National Parliament unanimously adopted the autonomy framework contained in the Bill of Aceh Government, which will pave the way for Aceh's first direct local elections.  Only a strong democracy could have done that.  It shows that Indonesia's new democracy is growing stronger by the day.

Between them, President Yudhoyono and the leaders of the Free Aceh Movement turned the tragedy of the tsunami into an opportunity - an opportunity to build peace in Aceh.  I strongly commend them.  The United Nations family will continue to do its part to support Aceh's reconstruction and recovery.  But, there could be no better tribute to the memory of the tsunami victims than this progress towards peace.

I also commend the Aceh Monitoring Mission for its efforts in overseeing the peace process.  I hope the European Union and ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) will agree to continue these efforts, as the Indonesian Government has requested.

The next crucial chapter in Aceh's transition will be the elections.  I urge all involved to make them a success.  Any remaining concerns must be addressed through the political and legislative process.  It would be tragic if, after coming so far, any party in Aceh resorted to violence or coercion.

The people of Aceh want to live without fear, and to build their future within a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Indonesia.  Let us all work together to make sure that the peace accord is implemented in full.  Let us show that peace in Aceh is finally here to stay.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful commemoration.

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