Responding to recent complaints by Australian officials and oil company representatives over a change in incentives offered for petroleum exploration in the Timor Gap, senior United Nations and East Timorese officials have said the criticisms were “neither balanced nor accurate.”
Speaking over the weekend in Geneva, the head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello, said the objections made by officials from Phillips Petroleum and the Australian government were not made “in a spirit of partnership and co-operation.”
Phillips Petroleum and its partners announced last week that they would defer investment decisions on a proposed pipeline from the Timor Sea to Darwin, Australia, complaining that East Timor was not providing the same fiscal terms as had been offered before, when Indonesia and Australia had established a treaty on oil revenue in the Timor Gap. Australia’s Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Industry later came out with statements that said they shared the company’s concerns.
East Timor’s lead negotiators on the new Timor Gap treaty, Mari Alkatiri and Peter Galbraith, said that while they wanted oil companies to continue working with East Timor, it would be unfair for East Timor to provide the companies the same fiscal incentives that had been offered in the past.
Mr. Alkatiri emphasized that the regime that has been developed between East Timor and Australia on oil in the Timor Gap would ensure that any investment in a gas pipeline in that area would get a healthy reward.
In other news, an investigation team has found that UN peacekeepers acted “within reasonable grounds” when they fired back and killed a suspected militia member, later identified as a soldier with the Indonesian armed forces.
The results of the investigation released over the weekend established that the exchange of fire, in which the Indonesian soldier was killed, took place across the East and West Timor border but that the New Zealand peacekeepers had remained on the East Timorese side at all times. According to the probe, conducted by UN Military Observers serving with the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), the peacekeepers had earlier set up an observation post in the area of the incident, following reports of activity by suspicious armed persons.
Meanwhile, UNTAET’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced on Monday that it has finished compiling the voter list for the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections and that the final electoral roll contained 409,019 names. A total of 26,331 eligible voters that had not appeared on the preliminary voter roll were added to the list following the exhibition and challenge period that ended 27 July.
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