East Timor signs maritime border deal with Australia

Lynette PayneMar 09, 2018

La Trobe University expert Bec Strating said if Indonesia wanted to renegotiate the Perth treaty it would be a headache for Australia, and could deliver Indonesia greater fishing rights, but not necessarily greater rights to oil and gas exploration.

Australia has signed a significant deal with East Timor for a permanent maritime border in the Timor Sea.

It will come into force once it has received parliamentary approval in both countries.

"Australia has an enduring interest in a stable and prosperous Timor-Leste. we want Timor-Leste to achieve its economic potential", she said.

As far back as 2002, then-Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer warned that re-drawing the maritime boundaries with East Timor could have a knock effect and lead to re-negotiation of the maritime boundaries between Australia and Indonesia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said developing Greater Sunrise would "require the support of the private sector oil and gas joint venture companies whose capacity to develop and operate the project will depend on its economic viability".

Under the treaty the two countries agreed to share upstream revenue from Greater Sunrise, but failed to come to an arrangement on the split. Australia and Timor-Leste on Tuesday signed a maritime boundaries treaty under the auspices of the United Nations.

Now Timor could receive up to 80 per cent of the revenue from this lucrative field.

The treaty was brokered by the Conciliation Commission established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister Agio Pereira said both nations would now press on with talks about developing Greater Sunrise.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres witnessed the signing of the treaty, which was the first-ever reached under a special conciliation mechanism of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

East Timorese Minister Agio Pereira said the deal was "equitable" and "consistent with worldwide law". "Our treaty reflects the value and importance of those rules and institutions and the benefits for states in abiding by those rules", she said.

Bishop noted each country recommended two members of the commission and all "played an objective, forthright and rigorously independent role".

The agreement was doubly historic because it also marked the successful conclusion of the first-ever negotiations to settle maritime differences under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. "The treaty, signed on March 6 in the presence of the United Nations Secretary General, is a testament to the efficacy and importance of resolving disputes peacefully and in accordance with worldwide law, the U.S. said in a statement here".

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