Phnom Penh. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, agreed on Friday to have Timor Leste as a new member in a landmark decision during the leaders’ gathering in Phnom Penh.
In a joint statement during the summit, the leaders of 10 ASEAN countries “agreed in principle to admit Timor-Leste to be the 11th member of ASEAN”.
They also agreed to grant observer status to Timor Leste and allow its participation in all ASEAN meetings including at the Summit plenaries.
The ASEAN Economic Community sent a fact-finding mission to Timor-Leste in July and later acknowledged the country’s efforts in conducting economic reforms in the relevant sectors and improving its human capacity in the past few years.
Timor Leste has formally applied for ASEAN membership since 2011 without much success until the summit in Cambodia.
Speaking at a Jakarta event earlier this year, a frustrated Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta said that “to reach the perfection of heaven is easier than to reach the gates of ASEAN”.
To get full membership of the regional bloc with a combined GDP of more than $3 trillion, Timor Leste will receive capacity-building assistance and “any other necessary and relevant support” from the current member countries until the next summit, the statement said.
ASEAN currently comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.