Foreign relations of East Timor

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Timor Leste

After the referendum on independence on 30 August 1999, East Timor became an independent nation on 20 May 2002 and it has started initiating foreign relations with the rest of the global community.

Relations with specific countries and regions

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Countries with embassies in East Timor
Countries with East Timorese diplomatic missions

East Timor is the only country in Southeast Asia that is not a member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). East Timor also does not hold observer status in the group. However, East Timor has expressed its intention of gaining observer status to ASEAN in July 2002 and in 2006 was spoken of as requiring five years to become an ASEAN member. ASEAN on the other hand has been inviting the small nation to many of ASEAN ministerial meetings as a sign of goodwill. In 2007 East Timor signed the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Co-operation.

East Timor is a potential member of the East Asia Summit.


Australia and East Timor are near neighbours with close political and trade ties. East Timor, one of the poorest countries in Asia, lies about 610 kilometres northwest of the Australian city of Darwin.

For many years Australia implicitly supported the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, giving priority to the policy of maintaining good relations with Indonesia. This policy was however changed in the late 1990s, with Australia starting to support UN, Portugal and other countries in the defence of the self-determination of East Timor.

Since then, Australia has played a prominent role in the young republic's history. Australia led the military force that helped stabilise the country after it chose independence from Indonesia in 1999 and also after the internal conflict in 2006 and has been a major source of aid since.

DFAT[1] (Department of Foreign Affairs) will manage an estimated $68.0 million in bilateral funding to Timor-Leste in 2015-16. Total Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Timor-Leste in 2015-16 will be an estimated $93.9 million.


Brazil and East Timor are both Portuguese-speaking and relations are friendly. East Timor has an embassy in Brasilia and Brazil has an embassy in Dili.

Brazil has a co-operation program with East Timor, that includes a wide range of areas, including labour policy, justice, national security, culture, agriculture, education, governance, sports, environment and health.


Despite the traumatic past, relations with Indonesia are very good. Indonesia is by far the largest trading partner of East Timor (Approximately 50% of imports, 2005) and is steadily increasing its share. Problems to be solved include, East Timor-Indonesia Boundary Committee meetings to survey and delimit land boundary; and Indonesia is seeking resolution of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia.


Malaysia has contributed to many UN peacekeeping missions on the country, such as one are the Operation Astute during the 2006 East Timorese crisis.[2] Malaysia also has provided assistance to Timor-Leste in the area of human resources development through various training programmes and providing assistance to East Timor in its nation building efforts.[2] Currently, Malaysia has been consider by East Timorese as a model to develop their countries.[3][4]

East Timor has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur,[5] and Malaysia has an embassy in Dili.[6]


The close relations between Mozambique and East Timor are old, coming already from the time when both territories were Portuguese colonies. Before the independence, several Timorese political leaders lived in exile in Mozambique, including the present President of East Timor José Ramos-Horta and the former Prime-Minister Mari Alkatiri. Both the countries are members of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). East Timor maintains an embassy in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.


Being the only two predominantly Catholic nation in Asia, relations with the Philippines became very positive as soon as East Timor was multilaterally recognised as an independent state. The two countries are now engaged in a growing commercial relationship, as well as cultural and educational exchanges.

On 6 June 2013, both countries signed three agreements in Manila concerning infrastructure development, defence and education.[7]


East Timor has an embassy in Lisbon whilst Portugal has an embassy in Dili. East Timor was a colony of Portugal for over 400 years. As a former Portuguese colony, East Timor has a significant proportion of Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is one of the two official languages of Timor and it is a full member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.

From 1986, Portugal started to make the self-determination of East Timor a major concern of its diplomatic policy, at a time when the occupation of this country by Indonesia was still a matter forgotten by the international community. The diplomatic efforts from Portugal were able to achieve a growing international support, includind from countries, as Australia and the USA, that hitherto implicitly supported the Indonesian occupation. This efforts would eventually lead to a referendum and the independence of East Timor in 2002.

Other ties include connections between the National University of Timor-Leste and Coimbra University, and between the military forces of East Timor and Portugal.


Russia was one of the first countries to recognise East Timor’s independence and took part in nearly all UN aid programs, providing food and relief personnel, including civil and transport aviation pilots.[8] After the shooting of José Ramos-Horta (former president of East Timor), the Russian ministry said; "The Russian side expresses its concern over the attempt on the life of the East Timor president, and hopes political stability in East Timor will be maintained, as a fundamental condition for a successful solution to the complicated problems it is facing. And in the interests of strengthening national unity and ensuring social and economic development."

Russia is represented in East Timor through its embassy in Jakarta (Indonesia).

South Korea

The establishment of diplomatic relations between the East Timor and the Republic of Korea began on 20 May 2002.

United States

East Timor maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as a Permanent Mission in New York City at the United Nations. The United States has a large bilateral development assistance program, $20.6 million in 2007, and also contributes funds as a major member of a number of multilateral agencies such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The US Peace Corps has operated in East Timor since 2002, but it suspended operations in May 2006 due to unrest and instability.

Participation in international organisations

The country is an observer of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).

Although East Timor is not situated in the Pacific Ocean and not geographically part of Oceania, it also holds observer status in the Pacific Islands Forum, but does not seek full member status nor associate member status within the organisation, as it wishes to become a full member of the ASEAN.

International disputes

East Timor-Indonesia Boundary Committee meets to survey and delimit land boundary; Indonesia seeks resolution of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia; Australia, East Timor, and Indonesia are working to resolve maritime boundary and sharing of seabed resources in the Timor Gap.

See also



External links

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