Permanent Court of Arbitration to oversee East Timor-Australia maritime border dispute
(29 September 2016)
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has said it will oversee a compulsory conciliation between East Timor and Australia on their maritime boundary.
Australia and East Timor will now engage in a conciliation process that will take place behind closed doors over the next year, but which will not be legally binding.
No permanent maritime boundary has been established between the two countries and billions of dollars of undersea gas deposits in the ‘Greater Sunrise’ oil and gas fields in the region have made the line of demarcation economically significant for both parties.
The two countries have entered into three revenue-sharing treaties regarding oil and gas in the East Timor Sea and, under the current series of agreements, East Timor receives 90% of revenues from the Joint Petroleum Development Area that lies between the two countries while revenues from the portions of ‘Greater Sunrise’ that lie outside the JPDA are split 50/50.
After the PCA made the announcement, East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao welcomed the decision, saying, "Just as we fought so hard and suffered so much for our independence, Timor-Leste will not rest until we have our sovereign rights over both land and sea."
The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement that existing treaties between the countries had been “hugely beneficial” to East Timor but that “Australia accepts the commission’s decision and will continue to engage in good faith.”
“We are committed to working together to strengthen our relationship and overcome our differences in the Timor Sea,” the statement said.