07/20/2022, 15.40
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Timor Leste asks for Indonesia’s support to join ASEAN

by Steve Suwannarat

Timor Leste has had observer status for years. Yesterday's visit by President José Ramos-Horta to Indonesia could see the small nation join the Association next year. Significantly, the meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo was held in the Indonesian capital.

Dili (AsiaNews) – The visit by Timor Leste’s President José Ramos-Horta to Indonesia yesterday has boosted the chances of his small country of joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Since it applied to join the regional organisation in 2011, Timor Leste[*] “has fulfilled many of the requirements necessary for a functioning economy and democracy so [it] will be a productive member of ASEAN,” said President Ramos-Horta.

Indonesia is ASEAN’s largest and most populous country with its biggest economy, while Timor Leste has observer status.

The president’s visit to Indonesia confirms the convergence of aims between the two countries and the positive nature of their bilateral relations.

Significantly, Ramos-Horta met his Indonesian counterpart, President Joko Widodo, at the presidential palace in Bogor, not far from the capital Jakarta. Next year, his country might join ASEAN when Indonesia will chair the regional organisation.

Timor Leste is a country of about 15,000 square kilometres, home to 1.3 million people. It occupies roughly half of the island of Timor, the other part being part of Indonesia.

A Portuguese colony until 1975, it was invaded by Indonesia the following year. For close to a quarter-century, it fought a war of independence against Indonesian rule. It was placed under United Nations administration in 1999 and became independent in 2002. On 20 May it marked the 20th anniversary of its birth as an independent republic.

It is also noteworthy that ASEAN membership could be achieved during the presidency of Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize together with then Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, for his commitment to bringing freedom and justice to his country.

During the meeting, Indonesian President Widodo, a progressive who is trying to boost Indonesia’s fortunes, said that his country had made large investments in Timor Leste, some US$ 818 million, especially in energy, banking and communications.

Bilateral trade between the countries reached US$ 250 million in 2021.

[*] Also known in English as East Timor.

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