New Zealand troops in Timor-Leste are to be withdrawn next year following an agreement between the countries today.
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp met Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in Auckland this morning (Friday) to sign a memorandum of understanding about future defence arrangements.
There are about 80 New Zealanders based in Timor-Leste as part of the International Stabilisation Force, which was called into action after fresh violence erupted in the country in 2006.
Under today's agreement, New Zealand troops will begin leaving after next year's Timor-Leste election.
Mr Gusmao told APNZ the agreement also emphasised ongoing defence cooperation between the countries with a move to New Zealand-based support and a more advisory role.
"They will provide training for our military in New Zealand, and the role will change," he said.
"The have been reducing (troop numbers) from the beginning, and after the elections they will be gone." Dr Mapp said the agreement would provide a solid foundation for the relationship with Timor-Leste once it took responsibility for its own security matters.
Mr Gusmao said he had also spoken to Prime Minister John Key earlier in the week, and had asked if New Zealand could provide more support for Timor-Leste's customs and education programmes.
"The New Zealand help has been very good so we've asked for further support," he said.
"We are still in need of more technical assistance about how to do the job."
Mr Gusmao said Mr Key had seemed positive about the idea and had said he would consider it.
Mr Gusmao has been in New Zealand since Tuesday observing the Pacific Islands Forum.
Timor-Leste has applied to be a member of Asean, which does not allow dual membership with the forum, but Mr Gusmao said it was important for Timor-Leste to keep up its relationships in the Pacific region.
"We are Islanders, we have many, many common issues and we have to work together," he said.
Among the regional issues Mr Gustao said he was particularly interested in was the problem of illegal fishing, communication concerns and promoting economic growth.
The Prime Minister is in town until tomorrow morning, just long enough to catch the opening Rugby World Cup match between Tonga and the All Blacks.
He might not be popular with local fans - today pledging his support for "underdogs" Tonga.