PostHeaderIcon Asian Foreign Ministers Welcome East Timor to Top Security Forum

The country's foreign minister, Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, joined his colleagues at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which groups the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations with partners including the European Union, United States, China, Japan, Australia and Russia. Ministers took turns to welcome their "good friend" and said they were looking forward to a partnership with the nation of about one million people. East Timor became independent as one of Asia's poorest countries in May, 2002 after a period of UN stewardship following a 1999 referendum to split from Indonesia. Its giant neighbour invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 to begin years of repressive rule. The United Nations says at least 1,400 people were killed during militia violence organized by the Indonesian security forces ahead of and after the referendum. ARF was established in 1994 to foster dialogue and consultation on political and security issues while aiming to develop confidence-building and preventive diplomacy. In addition to the 10 members of ASEAN -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysian, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- the ARF groups Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, the United States, and now East Timor. fl-it/br/jah