Dutch prime minister supports Indonesia's territorial integrity

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Friday he supported the territorial integrity of his country's former colony, Indonesia . Indonesia 's current borders are based on the islands it received when the Netherlands withdraw from what was then called the Dutch East Indies in 1950 after 350 years of colonial rule.

But Papua province, in Indonesia 's far east, maintains it is a special case because the Dutch held onto the region and were preparing it for eventual independence in 1963, when it was taken over by Indonesia . Jakarta formally annexed the oil- and gas-rich region six years later.

Balkenende, on a two-day trip to Indonesia , told reporters that he supported Indonesia 's claim to Papua, where a small separatist insurgency still simmers amid claims of rights abuses by troops. "It is important to underline that we fully respect the territorial integrity of Indonesia ," he said, adding he supported Indonesia 's attempts to give the province more self-rule.

He was speaking after meeting with Islamic leaders in Indonesia . Balkenende's trip follows recent visits by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who both praised Indonesia 's transition to democracy and its status as a moderate Muslim nation.

He also is scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and officials helping Aceh province rebuild from the 2004 Asian tsunami. Indonesia and the Netherlands enjoy close relations, and Dutch cultural and linguistic influences on Indonesia remain strong, reports the AP.


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