President of Timor-Leste says farewell to the Maldives

José Ramos-Horta President of Timor-Leste (East Timor) said his goodbyes to President Nasheed and the Maldives yesterday evening.

Just after 10 pm, a press conference was held in the VVIP lounge at Malé International Airport.

President Ramos-Horta arrived in the country on the evening of 13 February on a state visit. He described the Maldives as “paradise islands” and thanked the “president, government and people of Maldives for welcoming us with open arms.”

New avenues of cooperation

President Nasheed said Dr Ramos-Horta’s visit is a good beginning to strengthen bilateral relations and has opened up “new avenues of cooperation between both nations”.

He added the two men compared notes and were “very easily able to come to a number of understandings” as they “share similar personal lives, conditions [and] situations”.

During President Ramos-Horta’s visit, agreements of education, culture, tourism and visa arrangements have been signed by the Foreign Ministers of both countries. These agreements are purposed to enhance cooperation and strengthen ties between the countries.

President Ramos-Horta said he was “feeling at home” and “learning about [the] enormous progress that this country has made since independence in spite of extraordinary odds of geography and environment”.

He also said that he hoped the Maldives would “be able to assist advice on how we can build up our own…maritime security” and to “develop our own tourism strategy…in the years to come.”

Dr Ramos-Horta said he had learned a lot from his visit to the Maldives and would be taking this knowledge home.

“[I] will tell my compatriots and colleagues in leadership to learn from this country, [where] in true adversity, they [have] managed to build a prosperous society, with imagination, with vision, with hard work. So that is one inspiration I take from my visit,” he said.

Climate change

The two leaders discussed climate change, sustainable development and poverty eradication, and hoped to encourage other Asian leaders to join them in seeking practical solutions to these pressing issues.

“One of the issues of common concern to us is the issue of climate change. As vulnerable island states we will make every effort to work together…[and] to take further steps beyond Copenhagen”, said Dr. Ramos-Horta.

He added that although he didn’t show up in Copenhagen, and “I was probably the only president who didn’t show up,” through “wise leadership and determination” and by mobilising other Asian leaders, the next round of climate change summit, COP 16 Mexico 2010, could be reached with a “commitment by all”.

He also commended President Nasheed for his hard work and good results at COP15, saying that “…not many small island nations, not many developing countries, had this impact” and he will “look forward to work[ing] on a regular basis with His Excellency, the president”.

Joint statement

Additionally, the Presidents issued a joint statement which was read during the press conference.

Nasheed said they came up with a statement that “would indicate how we may be able to proceed in the work that both countries can jointly achieve.”

The statement spoke of implementing innovative, practical and pragmatic approaches to the problems of climate change, poverty eradication and sustainable development. President Nasheed added that they hoped to achieve bigger targets for cutting carbon emissions for COP16.

The joint statement reads: “Asia is undoubtedly the most affluent, dynamic and promising region in the world [but] is also one that faces the greatest challenges ranging from demographic pressure to extreme poverty and environmental degradation.”

President Ramos-Horta finalised his visit by addressing President Nasheed and saying, “I hope I will be able to reciprocate in my humble home in Timor-Leste your generosity, your hospitality and we hope you can visit us soon. I thank you and may God bless you.”

President Nasheed responded by saying “Spending time with the president of East Timor is well worth it and I certainly treasure the moments.”

President Ramos-Horta was led to a Singapore Airlines airplane on a red carpet where soldiers, generals, ministers and other senior members of government wished him farewell .