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"Australia and Timor-Leste is seeking for "creative solution" to the deadlock in talk ... From the media, it appears that Australia is willing to give "additional" revenue to Timor-Leste, but Timor-Leste shall give-up it sovereignty claim over the Greater Sunrise by ratifying the International Unitisation Agreement in its form now. ... There has not been any formal declaration from Timor-Leste's on this matter, but from the media report, etc, government seems to entertain this proposal. ... The "creative solution" ... prejudices Timor-Leste's national interest if in exchange of the revenue sharing Timor-Leste has to ratify the IUA in its current form." Dionísio Babo Soares and Francisco da Costa Monteiro
This page last updated 5 May 2005



Facts of the Negotiation on the Permanent Maritime Boundary:


Compiled by: Dionísio Babo Soares and Francisco da Costa Monteiro

Published in Timor Post, Saturday 30 April 2005



At what stage is the negotiation on the Permanent Maritime Boundary now?


Timor-Leste and Australia is now at the second round of negotiation after the Independence of Timor-Leste in 2002. At the first round negotiation which was held in Dili Timor-Leste on the 20th to 24th April this year, Australia rejected the proposal for twice a year meeting and did not want to talk about Timor-Leste's potential claim on the lateral boundaries which encompass the Greater Sunrise, the Laminaria-Corralina and the Buffalo gas and oilfields. The second round of negotiation is now in Canberra, Australia from 20th ­ 24th of September and followed by number of talks in Darwin a week after.

The focus of the negotiation now is the Greater Sunrise development, which has been suspended because of the non-ratification of International Unitisation Agreement by the Parliament of Timor-Leste till now.


What is the "breakthrough" in this new negotiation round?


Australia and Timor-Leste is seeking for "creative solution" to the deadlock in talk between the two countries on the first negotiation round. From the media, it appears that Australia is willing to give "additional" revenue to Timor-Leste, but Timor-Leste shall give-up it sovereignty claim over the Greater Sunrise by ratifying the International Unitisation Agreement in its form now.


What is the Timor-Leste Government's formal position on this "proposal"?


There has not been any formal declaration from Timor-Leste's on this matter, but from the media report, etc, government seems to entertain this proposal.


What is the legal position of Timor-Leste and Australia?


Timor-Leste's legal position has been based on the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Seas which stipulates that if two Coastal States situated in less than 400 nautical miles, which is the case between Timor-Leste and Australia, the principle of Equidistance (medias-line) should be used in delimiting the boundary between the two states. Furthermore, modern international law suggests that Timor-Leste shall be entitled to the laterals extends more than the current lateral boundaries set in the JPDA. The current JPDA laterals boundaries have set by Indonesia and Australia based on their 1972 Treaty which contains some flaw. Since Timor-Leste was not a party in the 1972 Treaty, it shall not be held accountable nor shall it accept the validity of the starting points of the west and the east laterals.


On the other hand, Australia's legal position has been based on the argument that it entitles to "the natural prolongation of continental shelf". According to Australia, Timor-Leste sits on a different continental shelf (this is not true!) and that Timor Trough, the trench with maximum 3000 meter deep in the Timor Sea, a clear feature that separates the two continent, Australia and Asia where Timor-Leste lie on (again, is not true!). Therefore, Australia claims that the natural prolongation of Australian continental shelf ended in Timor Trough and thus it entitles to all the areas in the Timor Sea under dispute. Moreover, it argues that all maritime borders with its other neighboring countries have been based on this principle and therefore Timor-Leste shall follow this principle too.


Is the legal position of Timor-Leste strong?



Yes! At least 60 cases of maritime boundary dispute similar to Timor-Leste-Australia' case, have been decided in favor of equidistance or median line drawing principle by international dispute settlement mechanisms (courts and arbitrations).


Of 20 cases of maritime boundary dispute resolved through bilateral negotiations have all been decided on the basis of equidistance and median line principle, except the case of Indonesia-Australia in 1972.


Are the Timor-Leste's Median-Line and Lateral Boundaries claim valid under international law?



Yes! Any Coastal State is given under international law (UNCLOS) the right to claim and explore its continental shelf to as much as 200 nautical miles or more. This means both Timor-Leste and Australia has the right to claim 200 nautical miles or more of it continental shelf. The sea width between the two countries is therefore shall be more that 400 nautical miles. However, because the sea between Timor-Leste and Australia are less than 400 nautical miles, there is overlapping area when each country applies this right under the international law. That's why there exists the overlapping claim area or the disputed area in Timor Sea. The best principle advocated by international law to resolve problems such as this, is the principle equidistance or median line drawn from the coastal baselines of each Timor-Leste's southern coast and Australia's northern coast.


Does the "creative solution" prejudice Timor-Leste's national interest?



The "creative solution" will prejudice Timor-Leste's national interest if it does not involve amendments of the articles 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11 of the International Unitization Agreement and the Timor Sea Treat article 9 Annex-E. In other word, it prejudices Timor-Leste's national interest if in exchange of the revenue sharing Timor-Leste has to ratify the IUA in its current form.




Email Australia's Prime Minister Howard - Tell the Australian Government to Stop Stealing East Timor's Resources and East Timor's Future - http://www.etan.org/action/fax/faxaus.htm


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