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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

East Timor authorises maritime boundary negotiations with Australia

(31 October 2014)

The East Timorese parliament has passed a resolution authorising the "immediate commencement of negotiations" with Australia over a permanent maritime boundary between the countries. Media report that talks between the two countries to plan the negotiations have already begun.

The maritime boundary between East Timor and Australia was first negotiated when Indonesia occupied East Timor, and is closer to East Timor than Australia rather than equidistant as is common under international law. At stake are valuable oil and gas reserves, currently on the Australian side of the disputed boundary, but which would become East Timorese territory under an equidistant boundary. Two temporary treaties with Australia, ratified in 2002 and 2007, have allowed the development of the East Timorese Bayu-Undan oil and gas reserves, which now make up 90 percent of East Timor’s revenue. However, the disputed territory’s potential oil and gas reserves are estimated to be worth over £22 billion.

Relations between East Timor and Australia worsened after the 2013 revelation that Australian Secret Intelligence Service had spied on East Timor government officials during the negotiations over the 2007 agreement. East Timor filed a suit with the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to end that agreement, and in 2014 the International Court of Justice ordered Australia to cease all spying activities with East Timor.

The East Timorese parliament supports the creation of a council to delimit permanent maritime boundaries in the disputed region.

Sources:

Australia and East Timor restart talks on maritime boundary, 28 October 2014, by Tom Allard, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-and-east-timor-restart-talks-on-maritime-boundary-20141027-11ckhb.html

Australians urged to pressure government on East Timor boundary dispute, 30 October 2014, By Ron Sutton, World News Radio, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/29/australians-urged-pressure-government-east-timor-boundary-dispute