19 May 2012

East Timor's president-elect hopeful for good ties with Australia

ABC Radio Australia Connect Asia 17 May 2012, 14:37 AEST - This weekend, East Timor's president-elect will be sworn in to office as the
country celebrates ten years since its formal independence from Indonesia.
East Timor's president-elect hopeful for good ties with Australia (Credit: ABC)

The former military chief Taur Matan Ruak comes to office at a time when East Timor faces major economic challenges.

He's hopeful about East Timor's future and his country's relationship with

Correspondent: Sara Everingham

Speaker: Taur Matan Ruak, East Timor's president-elect

SARA EVERINGHAM: Taur Matan Ruak was a key figure in the armed resistance to Indonesian occupation.

He's told Australia Network's Newsline program East Timor has come a long way since independence.

TAUR MATAN RUAK (translated): East Timor has everything it takes to be a rich, strong and prosperous country.

SARA EVERINGHAM: East Timor has revenues flowing from oil and gas reserves and it's just announced its petroleum fund has reached $US10 billion - but 40 per cent of people in East Timor live in poverty.

TAUR MATAN RUAK (translated): Fighting for our liberation was "easy" in
inverted commas, that is to say that we have all been learning. We are not a
100 year-old state, we are a young state where all have been committed to hard work and to guarantee a better life for our people.

SARA EVERINGHAM: When it comes to the relationship with Australia Taur Matan Ruak says he is confident the two countries could resolve any differences over shared oil and gas projects in the Timor Sea.

TAUR MATAN RUAK (translated): Australia has been an unwavering neighbour and friend of Timor Leste. I truly believe that dialogue can get both countries through with an agreement.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But it's East Timor's government rather than the president that's responsible for those negotiations.

Yesterday in Dili the prime minister Xanana Gusmao unveiled a small piece of European-built piping as a symbol of the government's push to develop the multi-billion dollar Greater Sunrise gas field on East Timor's terms.

(Sound of champagne cork popping and cheering)

Negotiations over how to process gas from Greater Sunrise have stalled.

The Australian-based operator Woodside wants to build a floating LNG processing plant above the field at sea. But East Timor wants the gas piped to a plant on the country's south coast for onshore processing.

Under an agreement between Australia and East Timor the revenue from the
Greater Sunrise field will be split between the two countries. But if there is no deal on how to develop the field by next year either country can cancel the agreement.

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