Minister for Foreign Affairs Zacarias da Costa was appointed to his position in 2007. He previously served as a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Social Democratic Party Bench at the Parliament.Timor-Leste celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2012. How have you seen this country change?
It is very different. This was a country that was completely devastated. It was 80-to-90 percent destroyed.When I returned in 1999, it was not the same country that it is today. We have done tremendous work building the country, but this is still a post-conflict nation. This is the message that I tell the world.How have the memories of the conflict influenced Timor-Leste’s interactions with other countries?
As foreign minister, I believe we need to put the past behind us and focus on the future.We need to ensure this for future gen- erations. The best justice we can make is to have a different Timor-Leste.What are your key priorities?
It is important to ensure that Timor has excellent engagement with Indonesia and Australia. We need to live together and ensure that all aspects of our relations are excellent.How would you describe the U.S.-Timorese relationship?
We are promoting a close relationship with the U.S.to balance the growing influence of China. Many challenges remain, but we will continue to have a close relationship. This is the first priority. The second,of course,is regional integration. We are a new country and need to find our place in the world.What do you think it would mean for Timor-Leste to be part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)?
We are a small country. If we close ourselves,we will not survive in the future. Joining ASEAN will benefit us and our membership will help ASEAN by adding another democratic voice.