Subject: Timor Leste Preparing For Asean Membership

February 02, 2009 23:03 PM

Timor Leste Preparing For Asean Membership

By Mohd Nasir Yusoff

JAKARTA, Feb 2 (Bernama) -- Timor-Leste has mobilised the "Asean National Secretariat" to intensify its preparations to join the regional grouping.

President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta presided over the launch ceremony on Thursday at the newly-built Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dili, said a statement issued by the Jakarta-based Asean Secretariat Monday.

Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, National Parliament President Fernando Lasama de Araujo, Foreign Minister Dr Zacarias Albano da Costa, Secretary-General Imron Cotan of Indonesia's Department of Foreign Affairs and members of the diplomatic corps in Dili and Timor-Leste members of Parliament attended the ceremony.

"In his address, President Ramos-Horta said that he had received reassurances of support for Timor-Leste's eventual admission into Asean during his recent state visits to Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia," the statement said.

He said Timor-Leste's ties to Southeast Asia and Asean were based on three factors -- geography, desire of the people and clear government policy and he added: "We wish to join Asean in the possible shortest time."

"We know the burden of proof of our readiness is on us," he said and pointed out that with the launch of the "Secretariat", Timor-Leste would continue to do its best to develop its human resources and show its seriousness and responsibility towards regional cooperation and diplomacy.

Foreign Minister Dr Albano da Costa, as quoted in the statement, said Timor-Leste shared the dream of Asean's founding fathers about peace, security and prosperity in Southeast Asia and that Timor-Leste was eager to contribute to making that dream come true.

He also asked Asean Dialogue Partners to further assist the "Secretariat" in training Timor-Leste officials.

The "Secretariat", located on the beach-front prime location and included an IT training centre, was built with financial assistance from South Korea, one of Asean Dialogue Partners, the statement said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, was built with financial assistance from China, another Dialogue Partner of Asean, it added.

The "Secretariat" is headed by Director-General Roberto Soares who will be concurrently Ambassador of Timor-Leste to Singapore and Brunei.

At the function, Thai Ambassador to Timor-Leste Wiwat Kunthonthien read a congratulatory message from the Director-General of Asean-Thailand, reiterating Thailand's support for Timor-Leste to join Asean.

Timor-Leste is developing diplomatic ties with all the 10 Asean member states and has opened its embassies in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur (also handling ties with Myanmar and Vietnam), Manila and Bangkok (also handling ties with Cambodia and Laos).

In another statement, the Asean Secretariat said Timor-Leste donated US$500,000 for humanitarian aid to Cyclone Nargis survivors in Myanmar, quoting Gusmao as saying that the contribution is Timor-Leste's show of "solidarity" with the people of Myanmar suffering from Cyclone Nargis.


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