The Timorese president, José Ramos-Horta, said on Thursday that a strengthening of Timor-Leste’s international relations with neighbouring countries, in the framework of ASEAN and with China, asking for more support from the United States would be good for the country.
Ramos-Horta, who was sworn in today at a ceremony in Tasi Tolu, on the outskirts of Dili, dedicated part of his speech to the country’s international relations and looked at several of the current partners.
“We intend to expand bilateral cooperation with China, particularly in sustainable agriculture, organic farming, small industries, trade, new technologies, renewable energy, connectivity, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and national and rural infrastructure,” he said.
Ramos-Horta added that the “increased responsibility in the promotion and defence of dialogue for the preservation of regional and global peace”, considering that “peace will only be real and lasting when it is achieved through dialogue and mutual respect, in which no party feels coerced or humiliated”.
He welcomed the support given by the United States since the restoration of independence, stressed the importance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation program, which will be signed soon, and called for the resumption of US Peace Corps programmes “in the areas of English language training and support to rural development projects.
He pledged to promote international cooperation and interdependence, essential, he said, to address common challenges such as peace, reconciliation, the fight against climate change, and the eradication of child slavery and extreme poverty.
These values “should guide the international relations” of Timor-Leste, which he classified as “an oasis of peace and solidarity” and for which he said the attitude of the historical leader, Xanana Gusmão, “in harmony with the entire national leadership”, of opting for “national reconciliation and the rejection of victors’ retributive justice” has contributed.
“We live in an imperfect but peaceful democracy, with no record of political, ethnic or religious violence, the various religions predominant in our country coexist in a spirit of full brotherhood,” he said.
“From this oasis of tranquillity, I reaffirm my commitment to fight for peace and human brotherhood at the national, regional and international level regardless of ideologies, religion or social organisation.
Betting on multilateralism, Ramos-Horta highlighted the “central” role of the United Nations in constructing the Timorese state.
Among other aspects, he highlighted the “secular ties” and “the deepest affection” of the relationship with Portugal, a country that has been “a true friend, supportive, generous and persistent, in all difficult moments” of the country.
“Eternal friendship and gratitude, friend President Marcelo,” he said, addressing the ceremony’s Portuguese head of state present. He also acknowledged solidarity with the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) countries.
In regional terms, he said, ties with Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia “should be at the top” of the national agenda, seeking “practical ways of greater economic and trade integration, of greater cooperation in the areas of defence and security, particularly maritime security.
Ramos-Horta said that an idea that the current Government practically abandoned should be taken up again, that of the triangulation between Timor-Leste, the Northern Territory of Australia and the Indonesian half of the island, particularly for the “development of trade and mobility of people and products through maritime and air connectivity”.
He reiterated the priority of joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a “national strategic objective” and strengthening ties with Japan and South Korea.