THE PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO THE REMARKS OF THE NEWLY APPOINTED AMBASSADOR OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF TIMOR-LESTE CONSTANCIO DE CONCEICAO PINTO UPON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF HIS LETTER OF CREDENCE
It is with great pleasure that I accept your Letter of Credence, which establishes you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and I acknowledge receipt of the Letter of Recall of your predecessor, Ambassador Jose Luis Guterres, who was exceptional in representing Timor-Leste in the United States. I would like to extend to you and your family a warm welcome and I look forward to working closely with you to deepen the already close relations between our countries.
The United States is proud that our support for the people of Timor-Leste preceded the 1999 Popular Consultation which led to your country's independence. As one of the world's oldest democracies, the United States feels a special kinship with Timor-Leste - the first new democracy of the twenty-first century. Even as a young nation, Timor-Leste has already proven its commitment to democratic values by completing a successful transfer of power between elected governments - a hurdle over which many new democracies stumble. Timor-Leste also remains a vocal supporter of international human rights and world peace.
We are committed to Timor-Leste's economic and social development. Our robust foreign assistance budget in Timor-Leste is among the most generous per capita in the world and focuses considerably on rural economic development and access to basic health services. Since 1999, our Timor-Leste Scholarship program has supported university education in the United States for 50 Timorese students.
In more recent years, we have been pleased to support Timor-Leste's security sector reform efforts by sponsoring national security strategy workshops, practical trainings, and technical assistance. Our military-to-military ties have never been stronger and activities such as the recent deployment of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit for joint exercises will reap benefits for both our countries for years to come.
Mr. Ambassador, I am delighted that Timor-Leste has assigned such an experienced diplomat to Washington, and I look forward to working with you to advance our common agenda and deepen the strong and abiding friendship of our countries. It is a pleasure to welcome you back to Washington.