Timor-Leste demands Australia enter into dialog over maritime dispute
(10 March 2016)
About 3,000 people marched to the Australian embassy in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili on 23rd February demanding dialog over the disputed marine border between the countries. A day later, during a special session of parliament in Dili, the heads of all four major political parties entreated Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to ask the Australian government to come to the negotiating table.
The maritime treaties signed between 2002 and 2006 include a development and benefit sharing scheme for the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields. At the core of the dispute is what Timor-Leste considers to be an unfair distribution of benefits, and the government in Dili seeks to negotiate a formal marine border that provides Timor-Leste with what it considers to be an equitable share of trans-border resources.
Timor-Leste foreign minister Hernani Coelho stated that when signing the treaty "The Australian government did everything to prevent an agreement for the sea and made sure we had no other choice than to accept their proposal … That was a very difficult choice for us because we were a very weak country; we had no assistance from experts on oil issues, no legal expertise to analyse the process of this agreement ... The Australian government knew and took advantage of our weaknesses."
The Australian government has so far not agreed to enter into formal talks.