Timor-Leste is to be admitted “in principle” as the 11th member state of ASEAN, Southeast Asian leaders gathered in Phnom Penh announced on Friday.
The country will be granted observer status at ASEAN meetings, including at summit plenaries and an “objective criteria-based roadmap” will be laid out for Timor-Leste’s full membership.
The leaders had discussed the matter earlier at a plenary session held in the Cambodian capital on Friday.
ASEAN leaders said that all member states and external parties shall fully support Timor-Leste to achieve the milestone by providing “capacity building assistance and any other support needed for its full membership in ASEAN”.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that ASEAN has been discussing the issue of Timor-Leste’s membership “for some time”.
Timor-Leste, a nation of 1.37 million people, gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 and officially applied for ASEAN membership in 2011.
“Singapore welcomes, in principle, Timor-Leste’s eventual membership of ASEAN,” said Lee.
“This should take place in accordance with an objective, criteria-based ASEAN roadmap.”
He added that ASEAN should help Timor-Leste build capacity, and the association should work with external partners on this.
Cambodia, which is this year’s ASEAN summit chair, was the last country to join ASEAN, in 1999.
The association was formed by five member states in 1967 – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Brunei was added to the circle in 1984. Vietnam joined in 1995, then Myanmar and Laos in 1997.