PHNOM PENH – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed in principle to admit East Timor as the group’s 11th member, according to a statement issued by the bloc on Friday.
The half-island nation, formally known as Timor Leste, will also be awarded observer status at high-level ASEAN meetings, the bloc announced following a summit of regional leaders in Phnom Penh.
“We… agreed in principle to admit Timor Leste as ASEAN’s 11th member,” the statement stated, adding that the next steps would involve submitting a “roadmap for full membership” during next year’s summit.
East Timorese opted for independence from neighboring Indonesia in a UN-supervised referendum in 1999, and the country was officially recognized by the UN in 2002, making it Asia’s youngest democracy.
The resource-rich country of 1.3 million people began the ASEAN accession process immediately, but only formally requested for membership in 2011.