February 22, 2024

ASEAN leaders pose for a group photo at the opening ceremony for the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Nov. 11, 2022. (Reuters)

Moon Desk: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed in principle to admit East Timor as the group’s 11th member, the bloc said in a statement on Friday.

The half-island nation, officially called Timor Leste, will also be granted observer status at high-level ASEAN meetings, the bloc said after regional leaders met in Phnom Penh for a summit.

“We… agreed in principle to admit Timor Leste to be the 11th member of ASEAN,” the statement said, adding that next steps would include a “roadmap for full membership” to be submitted at next year’s summit.

The East Timorese voted for independence from a brutal occupation by neighboring Indonesia in a 1999 UN-supervised referendum, and the country was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2002, making it Asia’s youngest democracy.

The resource-rich country of 1.3 million people immediately started the process of accession to ASEAN, but only formally applied for membership in 2011.

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