LISBON, PORTUGAL (April 24, 2024) – President José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste held high-level talks with the President of Portugal’s parliament on Wednesday, as the two nations seek to strengthen historical ties.

Meeting at Lisbon’s Palácio de São Bento, the seat of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, Ramos-Horta and Portuguese parliamentary leader José P.C. Aguiar Branco discussed the potential for expanding Portugal’s economic and commercial presence in Timor-Leste, the small Southeast Asian nation that was a Portuguese colony until 1975.

In remarks after the meeting, Ramos-Horta emphasized the importance of Timor-Leste not remaining isolated due to its population of just 1.4 million.

“When we isolate ourselves, because we are a population of only 1.4 million, it makes our economic sector very small, even though Timor-Leste will be very rich in the future,” he said. “With only 1.4 million people, we seem like a market that is not a priority in the eyes of the global community.”

The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate stated that Timor-Leste’s planned accession to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would open vast new economic opportunities.

“However, when we join ASEAN with 700 million people, Timor-Leste will become a major attraction for all investments,” Ramos-Horta told reporters.

Also attending the meeting were Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister Bendito Freitas and Ambassador to Portugal Isabel Amaral Guterres.

Strengthening bilateral ties with Portugal has been a top priority for Ramos-Horta since he took office as president in 2022. Wednesday’s visit to Lisbon was his first as head of state.

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