On Monday, Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, unveiled plans to set up a Singaporean embassy in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. This move, announced during a joint press conference with his Timorese counterpart, Bendito dos Santos Freitas, marks a significant milestone in the diplomatic relations between the two nations.
“As Timor-Leste continues to evolve as a nation and especially in its journey towards joining the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), we believe the time is ripe for establishing a resident embassy here. It will serve as the linchpin of our mutual cooperation and support, as well as pave the way for exploring future opportunities together,” Dr. Balakrishnan conveyed.
The new embassy, details of which are still being formulated, will focus on several areas of mutual interest, such as investment, tourism, defence, and energy, as reported by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Robin Hu, Singapore’s current non-resident ambassador to Timor-Leste, will maintain his role until the appointment of a permanent ambassador.
This diplomatic initiative was warmly received by the leaders of Timor-Leste, notably President Jose-Ramos Horta, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, and Mr. Freitas, who met with Dr. Balakrishnan earlier on Monday. Singapore will join Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, becoming the sixth ASEAN nation to establish an embassy in Timor-Leste.
Throughout these discussions, both sides affirmed the strength and longevity of the bilateral relations between the two nations. Singapore, known for its consistent support towards Timor-Leste’s development, has made significant contributions to its peacekeeping and nation-building efforts. The city-state dispatched over 1,000 personnel and equipment between 1999 and 2012, alongside establishing a police service in the country.
Beyond security, Singapore has emerged as a major foreign investor in sectors such as real estate and hospitality in Timor-Leste. Singaporeans have also made notable contributions to the healthcare and education sectors of Timor-Leste.
Dr. Balakrishnan reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to enhancing capacity building in Timor-Leste through the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which has already welcomed more than 800 Timorese officials.
Furthermore, Singapore has openly supported Timor-Leste’s prospective membership in ASEAN, which aligns with the roadmap adopted by the regional bloc’s leaders in May 2023. In this regard, Singapore pledged continued assistance to Timor-Leste in realizing the ASEAN roadmap.
In conclusion, Dr. Balakrishnan was scheduled to meet Vice-Prime Minister Francisco Kalbuadi Lay and attend a dinner hosted by Mr. Freitas later that day.
This news story is based on an article originally published on thestar.com.my.