On the last day of his nine-day tour of Asian-Pacific countries, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Friday promised long-term reconstruction aid to tsunami-ravaged Aceh.
Fischer handed out gifts to refugee children in Banda Aceh
At the same time Fischer pressed Indonesia and separatist rebels to end their decades-long conflict.
"We are ready for a long-term involvement," he said during a brief visit to the Aceh province. "What we need now is a transition from emergency aid to reconstruction. We are ready to engage in reconstruction for a period of five years."
Assessing the impact of German aid, calling for peace
After touring the main hospital and meeting German troops and aid workers to assess the impact of Berlin's assistance, Fischer, whose day-trip to Aceh comes at the end of a long-planned nine-day tour that had taken him to Australia, New Zealand, East Timor and Malaysia, called for political decision making and action.
Reiterating his hopes for peace in Aceh, which has been in the grip of a separatist rebellion since 1976, Fischer emphasized that solving the violent conflict was crucial to ensure Aceh remains open to foreign aid and for reconstruction to begin.
"Otherwise, we will not be able to maintain the infrastructure we have established," he said.
Military operations about to end
Inside a transportable German military hospital
Some 360 German troops in Aceh are expected to leave next month as foreign military operations wind down in Indonesia. While they have been a welcome presence, the aid effort has been marred by accusations by private aid organizations including the German Red Cross that the military has poorly coordinated the operation.
The German military has anchored a supply ship, the Berlin, off the coast of Aceh equipped with a full-service clinic and two water treatment systems and set up a medical unit in the city of Banda Aceh. Germany has also established the Bakoy temporary shelter with its Technical Reconstruction Agency.
Germany is one of the world's top donors
Germany has committed to give €500 million ($640 million) in aid over the next three to five years to tsunami-hit nations, making it one of the world's top donors in the global relief and reconstruction effort, Fischer pointed out.
The German public has donated about the same amount since the Dec. 26 catastrophe, which claimed more than 285,000 lives in 11 countries. Hundreds of German tourists are missing and presumed dead. Aceh bore the brunt of the killer sea surges, wiping out many coastal villages and leaving more than 231,000 people dead or missing, and some 400,000 homeless.