Subject: AFP: Timor to open embassies in six countries, ASEAN membership on hold

Also: Timor Makes Initial Framework of Foreign Policies

Agence France Presse

May 7, 2002 Tuesday

East Timor to open embassies in six countries, ASEAN membership on hold


Tiny East Timor will open embassies in six countries this year following independence on May 20, its deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

They will be set up in Jakarta, Canberra, Lisbon, Kuala Lumpur, Washington and Brussels, Fernando de Araujo Lasama said.

Araujo Lasama, quoted by the state Antara news agency, said the Jakarta embassy was the top priority as the former Indonesian province has so many common interests with Indonesia.

He cited border issues, refugees, education, the economy and other matters.

East Timor stood to gain much from forging closer ties with Indonesia, Araujo Lasama said. Imports from Indonesia would be much cheaper than from other countries.

East Timor, he said, also plans to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when it can afford it.

"In the early stages, East Timor will only obtain a status (in ASEAN) as an observer because Dili will certainly need huge funds to restructure its economy. Dili will need more money if it wants to become an ASEAN member as it must open embassies in all the grouping's member countries," he was quoted as saying at Kupang in Indonesian West Timor.

Araujo Lasama also said Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri was expected to attend the May 20 celebrations to show that Jakarta fully accepts independence.

Senior ministers have said Megawati plans to attend the ceremony but there has been fierce opposition from nationalist politicians.

for independence.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 but pulled its last troops out in October 1999 after a campaign of violence, arson, looting and forced deportation.

An estimated 250,000-270,000 people fled voluntarily or were forced across the border into West Timor. The UN says 205,000 have now returned home.

Araujo Lasama was visiting West Timor to persuade the remainder to come back.


May 7, 2002, Tuesday

East Timor Makes Initial Framework of Foreign Policies


East Timor projects this year to open embassies in six countries to facilitate its interests among global communities, East Timor's Deputy Foreign Minister Fernando de Araujo Lasama said Tuesday.

He told reporters in Kupang, capital of Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province, that the country's first embassies will be in Jakarta, Canberra, Lisboa, Kuala Lumpur, Washington and Brussels.

The formal dedication of those embassies is expected to take place soon after independence declaration and presidential inauguration on May 20.

"By late 2002 East Timor's first six embassies will be formally opened", Lasama was quoted by the Antara News Agency as saying.

Jakarta embassy will be at top priority, as both countries have urgent issues that need immediate settlement such as national borders, refugees, education and economy,according to the deputy minister.

Another foreign policy is the effort to join the membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) as an important framework to develop regional cooperation in many areas. However, it appeared that president-elect Xanana Gusmao in the beginning will opt for joining as an observer in ASEAN due to financial constraints.

"Being an ASEAN member is costly, as we have to open embassies in all member countries in the region,whereas we have to straighten up our domestic economy first", Lasama said.

East Timor sees Indonesia as the most important partner in economic term since both countries have shared sea and land boundaries.

"It is more beneficial to procure basic commodities from Indonesia than others. If basic commodities are shipped from Australia, people will be unable to pay.But if they are purchased from Indonesia, prices are inside people's buying range", he stressed.

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