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Aquino to back East Timor's bid for ASEAN membership

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

JAKARTA, Indonesia – President Benigno Aquino III will push for East Timor's bid for membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"The Philippines supports East Timor's bid to become a member of the ASEAN family at the soonest possible time, provided it is able to comply with all obligations of membership,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Victoria Bataclan said here.

East Timor has struggled to meet ASEAN's criteria for membership because of its underdeveloped economy, inadequate physical infrastructure, and fragile domestic institutions.

It also maintains only four embassies among the 10 member-states of the regional bloc.

During the ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting in March in Yogyakarta, Singapore said it was not ready to join any consensus on East Timor's admission to the bloc.

However, Indonesia, chairman of this year's summit, supported the application of the country it had once annexed and expressed optimism the issue can be decided during the 18th Asean Summit on May 7-8.

"We will use our term as ASEAN chairman to direct its (East Timor's) acceptance," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono's spokesman earlier said.

East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years from 1975, a period marked by widespread human rights abuses.

The impoverished nation gained formal independence in 2002 after winning its freedom in a 1999 United Nations-backed referendum marred by violence.

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