Happy birthday: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (left) shakes hands with Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in Dili on Saturday. The young nation celebrates the 10th anniversary of its independence from Indonesia while welcoming the inauguration of new head of state, President Taur Matan Ruak. (Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca)
Indonesia and Timor Leste have agreed to boost cooperation in various fields, highlighting that the two countries are strategic partners. Both countries also agreed to resolve many of the problems associated with a complicated shared past.
In his meeting with Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said both countries agreed to deepen cooperation in economic, political and socio-cultural sectors through various international forums.
“What we are doing is follow-up on recommendations from the Commission of Truth and Friendship to settle past problems,” Yudhoyono said on Saturday, referring to a commission that was established to investigate riots following the 1999 UN-sponsored ballot in Timor Leste.
Ramos-Horta said that cooperation between Indonesia and Timor Leste should be increased because both countries were strategic partners.
“We also thank Indonesia for supporting Timor Leste’s membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN],” said Ramos-Horta, who lost to José Maria Vasconcelos during the country’s April 16 election.
Vasconcelos, a former guerrilla fighter, also known as Taur Matan Ruak, was scheduled to be sworn-in at midnight on Saturday. President Yudhoyono will meet Vasconcelos in his capacity as the new President of Timor Leste on Sunday morning Accompanied by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and Cabinet ministers, President Yudhoyono arrived at Dili’s Nicolau Lobato airport around 10 a.m. Yudhoyono then headed to the Timor Leste Presidential Office to meet Ramos-Horta.
After the meeting, Yudhoyono and Ramos-Horta witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in various sectors, including youth affairs, Antara news agency reported.
Yudhoyono also received a token of appreciation from the Timor Leste government, presented by President Ramos Horta, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
During the meeting, Gusmao expressed his appreciation to the government and people of Indonesia for their support and willingness to cooperate with Southeast Asia’s youngest nation.
“Welcome and thank you for the support given to us,” he said at a meeting with the Indonesian President at the Palacio de Governor in Dili.
Xanana said that around 7,000 East Timorese are now studying in Indonesia — an example of how close the relations between the two nations has become.
“We have developed relations in various sectors, and today we are strengthening cooperation in the fields of tourism, youth affairs, economics, border crossing permits and others,” he said.
President Yudhoyono visited the Santa Cruz and Seroja cemeteries during the afternoon. The President and First Lady also sprinkled flowers on the graves of Indonesian heroes buried there.
Yudhoyono, who made his last visit to the country in April 2005, will attend Timor Leste’s Independence Day on Sunday.
Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said that the President’s visit would emphasize strengthening economic relationships with the youngest Southeast Asian country, which used to be a part of Indonesia.
Timor Leste voted overwhelmingly during a United Nations-sponsored referendum in 1999 to end 24 years of repressive Indonesian occupation that reportedly left more than 170,000 dead and caused thousands of others to live as refugees.