East Timor: Gusmão accuses Australia of 'collusion' with oil companies

Nellie Chapman
March 7, 2018

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and East Timor deputy minister for the Delimitation of Borders Agio Pereira signed the treaty at the United Nations in NY on Tuesday.

Signed by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Timor-Leste Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for the Delimitation of Borders, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira, at the UN headquarters in NY in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the pact marks the successful conclusion of the first recourse to conciliation proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"That will have an automatic flow on effect of adapting the eastern and western boundaries of the Australian-Timor Leste treaty we signed today".

The deal ends a decade-long dispute between the neighbours over rights to the sea's rich oil and gas reserves.

The treaty was the result of the first-ever conciliation under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, brought by Timor-Leste, angry at revelations Australian spies had allegedly bugged the offices of Timorese officials during previous negotiations.

The treaty suggests the transitional borders will move once Greater Sunrise on the west and Laminaria-Corallina on the east are depleted, and once Timor and Indonesia agree to new borders.

"Those arguments around the idea that Timor-Leste's lateral lines should be much further to the east and west rely on giving less weight to Indonesian territory", he said. A joint development zone was agreed on that broadly shared oil and gas revenue on a 50/50 basis, but set aside a permanent maritime boundary for future settlement.

"It is equitable, forward-looking, delinieating a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea, guided by the principle of achieving an equitable solution", he said.

While Indonesia may be able to seek a renegotiation of the boundaries, the question remains whether it will.

In particular, the generation of Timor's leaders who led its independence movement placed great importance on the new country having settled land and maritime borders.

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"Australia has been a pickpocket in the Timor Sea, shuffling through the poverty-stricken garments of these people for years", Collaery told Guardian Australia. The situation was exacerbated by allegations of Australian spying during treaty negotiations and a Greater Sunrise revenue split that favoured Australia. First, it provides for a southern boundary between Timor Leste and Australia that approximates a mid-way between relevant coastal features.

Ms Bishop said Australia also has a treaty with Indonesia.

"Because Australia has been so generous with Timor in the past, they will probably not ask for it back, but if Australia wanted to give it to Timor, then that would be nice".

"This treaty establishes a special regime for the Greater Sunrise gas field and a pathway to the development of the resource", Mr Pereira told the ceremony.

Discovered in 1974, Greater Sunrise has an estimated worth of between $40 and $50 billion.

The final agreement marks the maritime border around the median line between the two countries a concept supported by worldwide law and at odds with Australia's long-running claim of entitlement over the continental shelf.

The conciliation process has yielded a unique treaty.

Timor initiated the conciliation, engaging an independent third party in an effort to break the maritime boundary impasse.

Notwithstanding these achievements, some matters remain unresolved, including the location of the LNG processing plant.

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