Timor-Leste values Laos’ support for proposed Asean membership

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Timor-Leste highly values the support shown by Laos for the country’s application for Asean membership and is also seeking to broaden cooperation with Asean members in the Mekong sub-region.

The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mr Dionisio da Costa Babo Soares, made the statement about Timor-Leste’s assessment and perspective on cooperation when addressing Lao media last week during his visit to Laos from June 5-8.

“Timor-Leste enjoys the relationship between our two countries very much and the bilateral relationship has been very good,” Mr Soares said.

He reminded the media about the visit to Laos by the former Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmao, when he and his Lao counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding on economic cooperation.

He also pointed to the visits, discussions and contacts between the two countries’ leaders, which he said had been intensive.

Located in Indonesia, Timor-Leste became a state after its successful popular consultation in August 1999, and applied for Asean membership in 2011.

Mr Soares expressed his trust in Laos’ support for Timor-Leste, saying Laos had obtained full Asean membership and had hosted regional and global events.

“Laos is a full member of Asean and therefore has the right to do as other Asean members do,” he said.

“Laos has been the chair of Asean twice, and hosted the SEA Games and other international events so Timor-Leste places importance on Laos’ role in supporting our application for membership in Asean,” he added.    

Mr Dionisio da Costa Babo Soares talked about the success of his visit to Laos and his meetings with his Lao counterpart Mr Saleumxay Kommasith, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and the President of the National Assembly, Mrs Pany Yathotou.

He said he had received assurance from Laos of the country’s support for Timor-Leste’s application to become a member of Asean.

Mr Soares hoped the application for membership would be on the agenda of the next Asean Senior Officials Meeting and the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting.

If the application is approved by the other Asean member states, Timor-Leste will be the 11th member of the regional bloc.

Timor-Leste covers an area of 15,007 square kilometres and has a population of about 1.2 million, according to the 2015 census. Over 70 percent of the country is mountainous.

During the visit by Mr Soares and his delegation to Laos, the two sides agreed to continue to enhance economic cooperation with a focus on industry, agriculture and animal husbandry, freight forwarding, labour, tourism, vocational training, and exchanges between business and their two chambers of commerce and industry.

Mr Soares pointed out the similarity between Timor-Leste and Laos as being beneficial for the two countries in sharing and learning from each other about their development experiences and methods of cooperation.

The two parties will explore the potential of each country for furthering cooperation, in particular the sharing of experiences in fisheries, oil and gas extraction, coffee and rice growing, tourism and aviation.

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