Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Timor Leste, which finally got the green light to join ASEAN "in principle" last year, made its ASEAN meeting debut on Friday hosted by neighboring Indonesia which holds the current presidency.
Timor Leste Foreign Minister Adaljiza Magno joined her Southeast Asian counterparts – excluding Myanmar – at the 32nd ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) Meeting at the bloc's secretariat in Jakarta.
"Our ACC meeting is special and historical for ASEAN, whose leaders in Phnom Penh last November agreed in principle to admit Timor Leste as ASEAN's eleventh member and to grant an observer status, and allow its participation in all ASEAN meetings, including the summit plenaries," Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said at the ACC opening session.
"Therefore, for the first time, today, we welcome the participation of Timor Leste's foreign minister," she said.
Speaking before the assembled ASEAN diplomats, Magno admitted that Timor Leste's journey to becoming part of the Southeast Asian group was a challenging one.
"But it is not an impossible mission. With strong optimism and dedication, we are on the right track and progressing well to the right end of our journey," Magno said.
"That we have reached to this point is also the fruit of collaborative efforts and the support of all ASEAN members. We did not make it all the way alone," she added.
The rest of the ACC meeting ran behind closed doors.
At a subsequent press briefing, Retno unveiled that the ACC gathering resulted in several outcomes, among others, the adoption of the guidelines for Timor Leste's observer status.
"We also adopted the revised TOR [terms of reference] of the ACC working group on Timor Leste," Retno told reporters.
According to Retno, the council also tasked the working group to work on the draft roadmap for Timor Leste's full membership.
Timor Leste began its ASEAN membership bid back in 2011, meaning that it took more than a decade for the country to finally see significant progress in its journey. ASEAN also sent fact-finding missions – across economic, political-security, and socio-cultural community pillars – to assess Timor Leste's readiness to become the group's eleventh member.