USA praises Australia-East Timor treaty signing

Grant Boone
March 9, 2018

"Both countries negotiated in good faith in order to achieve a treaty that Timor Leste, Australia and the [Conciliation] Commission believe is fair, balanced and consistent with global law", the statement said.

The Timor-Leste and Australian governments have signed the new maritime boundary agreement whereby the border will be at a midway point between the two countries, meaning improved terms for Timor-Leste.

The treaty ends a long a bitter dispute between the neighboring countries and paves the way for exploitation of billions of dollars in gas and oil under the Timor Sea — with at least 70 percent of the revenue to go to impoverished East Timor.

However, the countries could not come to an agreement on how to develop the field, and will continue negotiations.

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 Timor's minister for delimitation of borders, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira agreed, saying: "Today is indeed a momentous day that will be recorded in East Timor's history and be remembered and celebrated".

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

"The agreement being signed today is a further contribution to establishing legal certainty in the world's ocean, an essential condition for a stable relationship, peace and security", he said.

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It also demonstrates the strength of worldwide law and the effectiveness of resolving disputes through peaceful means, he added.

The treaty was signed at the United Nations headquarters in NY by Foreign Julie Bishop and East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister Agio Pereira.

Bishop said an global rules-based order is fundamental to collective security and prosperity.

Timor-Leste's Minister Agio Pereira said: "Thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of both countries to this conciliation process, we have arrived at an agreement on maritime boundaries that is equitable, and consistent with global law".

"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. Ms Bishop said: "This treaty represents the importance of rules and the benefits of all states abiding by the rules".

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 is expected to provide a boost to East Timor's struggling economy by giving them more sovereignty over the Greater Sunrise, a lucrative oil and gas field located roughly 150km southeast of East Timor, and 450km northwest of Darwin.

"The conciliation shows how worldwide law can enable countries to resolve their disputes peacefully".

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