Foreign relations of East Timor

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After the referendum on independence on 30 August 1999, East Timor became an independent nation on 20 May 2002 and began initiating foreign relations with the rest of the global community.[citation needed]

Relations with specific countries and regions[edit]

Association of Southeast Asian Nations[edit]

East Timor is the only country in Southeast Asia neither a member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nor holding observer status in the group. However, East Timor has expressed its intention of gaining observer status to ASEAN in July 2002 and in 2006 it was considered six years to join. [20] However, East Timor has attended many meetings of ASEAN regardless. In 2007 East Timor signed the ASEAN Treaty on Amity and Co-operation. [21] [22]

East Timor is a potential member of the East Asia Summit.[citation needed]

Bilateral relations[edit]

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Andorra 20 September 2011

Both countries established diplomatic relations on September 20, 2011.[1]

 Armenia 23 December 2003

Both countries established diplomatic relations on 23 December 2003.[citation needed]

 Australia See Australia–East Timor relations

Australia and East Timor are near neighbours with close political and trade ties.

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, when Australia began to support the UN.

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.

 Belize 15 April 2003

Both countries established diplomatic relations on April 15, 2003.[2]

 Brazil See Brazil–East Timor relations

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.

 China See China–East Timor relations
 Croatia 5 February 2003

Both countries established diplomatic relations on February 5, 2003.[3][4]

 Cyprus 12 June 2002

Both countries established diplomatic relations on June 12, 2002.[5]


Georgia is represented in Timor by its embassy in Jakarta.[6]

 India See East Timor–India relations

Relations between East Timor and India date back to the early modern period. Indian traders traveled to the island in search of sandalwood. Trade links increased after the Portuguese colonisation of East Timor and portions of India. The Portuguese set up various garrisoned centres in India to carry out this trade, and all of Portugal's territories in Asia, including East Timor, were governed by the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa. Portuguese-trained Goan missionaries arrived in East Timor in the early 17th century, and were influential in spreading Catholicism in the country. Indians also traveled to East Timor to serve as soldiers, colonial bureaucrats, and missionaries. Some Indians arrived in East Timor in the late 19th century to work as migrant labour. A small community of Timorese nationals of Goan descent trace their heritage back to these previous generations of immigrants.[7]

India was the second country to recognize the independence of East Timor.[7] Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah led a high-level delegation representing India at East Timor's Independence Day celebrations in May 2002. Abdullah presented letters of felicitations from the President, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Foreign Minister. Diplomatic relations between the two countries was formally established on 24 January 2003. At the UN General Assembly in 2003, East Timor Prime Minister Alkatiri announced his country's support for India's candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.[8]

India diplomats Kamlesh Sharma and Atul Khare served as the Special Representative of Secretary General (SRSG) in East Timor until 2004 and 2009 respectively. India's DPR in New York was a member of the UN Security Council appointed team that visited East Timor in November to assess the situation on the ground and seek feedback from the all parties regarding the withdrawal of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT)’s and the situation in the country post-withdrawal.[8]

East Timor voted for India's candidature for a non-permanent seat during 2011-12. The country also supported the election of Poonam Khetrapal Singh for the post of Regional Director, South East Asia Regional office (SEARO), WHO in September 2013. East Timor co-sponsored a resolution moved by India at the UN General Assembly in January 2015, to declare 21 June as International Yoga Day.[8]

Several high-level visits between officials of the two countries have taken place. East Timorese Vice Minister of Health Natalia D. Araujo visited Delhi to participate in the International Conference on Traditional Medicine for South East Asian Countries in February 2013, and is the first East Timorese government official to visit India. Finance Minister Emilia Pires visited India in May 2013 to attend the ADB Governors’ Meeting. Hernani Coelho was the first East Timorese Foreign Minister to India. He arrived in the country on a two-day visit in 27–29 March 2016 and met with the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Minister of State (VKS) and the Minister of Health & Family Welfare.[8]

 Indonesia See Indonesia–East Timor relations

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. The East Timor-Indonesia Boundary Committee meets to survey and delimit land boundary; and Indonesia is seeking resolution of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia.

 Israel See Israel-East Timor relations

Both countries established diplomatic relations in May 2002.[9]

 Japan See East Timor–Japan relations

Japan has an embassy in Dili.[10]

 Latvia 27 September 2013

Both countries established diplomatic relations on September 27, 2013.[11]

 Lithuania 27 September 2013

Both countries established diplomatic relations on September 27, 2013.[12]

 Malaysia See East Timor–Malaysia relations

Malaysia has contributed to many UN peacekeeping missions on the country, such as one are the Operation Astute during the 2006 East Timorese crisis.[13] 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.[13] Currently, Malaysia has been consider by East Timorese as a model to develop their countries.[14][15]

East Timor has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur,[16] and Malaysia has an embassy in Dili.[17]

 Malta 20 May 2003

Both countries established diplomatic relations on May 20, 2003.[18]

 Mexico 26 September 2003 See East Timor–Mexico relations
Honorary consulate of Mexico in Dili
  • East Timor is accredited to Mexico from its embassy in Washington, D.C., United States.[19]
  • Mexico is accredited to East Timor from its embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia and maintains an honorary consulate in Dili.[20]
 Mongolia 30 June 1967

Both countries established diplomatic relations on June 30, 1967.[21]

 Montenegro 10 September 2010

Both countries established diplomatic relations on September 10, 2010.[22]


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.

 Philippines See East Timor–Philippines relations

The Philippines is one of the biggest contributor to the UN-backed peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste even before the East Timor became independent from Indonesia.

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. The Philippines is a vocal supporter of Timor-Leste's membership in ASEAN.

On 6 June 2013, both countries signed three agreements in Manila concerning infrastructure development, defence and education.[23]

 Portugal See East Timor–Portugal relations
Embassy of Portugal in Dili

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, including 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.

 Romania 20 December 2002

Both countries established diplomatic relations on December 20, 2002.[24]

 Russia See East Timor–Russia relations

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.[25] 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.


Serbia is represented in Timor by its embassy in Jakarta.[26]

 Singapore 20 May 2002

Both countries established diplomatic relations on May 20, 2002.[27][2]

 South Korea 20 May 2002

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


Turkey is represented in Timor by its embassy in Jakarta.[28]

 United States See East Timor–United States relations
Embassy of the United States in Dili

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.

 Vietnam 28 July 2002

Both countries established diplomatic relations on July 28, 2002.[29][30]

Participation in international organisations[edit]

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), Pacific Alliance 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[edit]

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[edit]


  • Sahin, Selver B. (2014). "Timor-Leste's Foreign Policy: Securing State Identity in the Post-Independence Period". Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs. 33 (2): 3–25.


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  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ [5]
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  7. ^ a b Horta, Loro (October 2007). "Relations with a new nation, How far South East is New Delhi prepared togo?". East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. Pragati - The Indian National Interest Review - No 7. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d "India – Timor Leste : Bilateral Relations" (PDF). Ministry of External Affairs. Embassy of India, Jakarta. December 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  9. ^ [7]
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  11. ^ [9]
  12. ^ [10]
  14. ^ "Timor Leste hopes to be associated with M'sian Parliamentary Friend". Bernama, The Sun Daily. 2 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Timor Leste wants to emulate Malaysia's development plans". Bernama, The Borneo Post. 2 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  16. ^ "Timor Leste Strengthens South East Asian Relations with New Embassy in Singapore". Gaia Discovery. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  17. ^ "Official Website of Embassy of Malaysia, Dili". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  18. ^ [11]
  19. ^ Embassy of East Timor in the United States
  20. ^ Embassy of Mexico Indonesia
  21. ^ [12]
  22. ^ [13]
  23. ^ Maierbrugger, Arno (6 June 2013). "Philippines, East Timor move closer". Inside Investor. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  24. ^ [14]
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 November 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ [15]
  27. ^ [16]
  28. ^ [17]
  29. ^ [18]
  30. ^ [19]

External links[edit]