04 November 2017

Australian Opposition welcomes Timor-Leste on maritime borders

WARNING MACHINE TRANSLATION ORIGINAL PORTUGUESE TEXT LUSA Noticias Timor-Leste Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has welcomed the fact that Timor-Leste and Australia have reached agreement on the maritime borders between the two countries, which it said was "a long time coming."

"The Labor Party made it clear before the last elections that if we won the elections we would resolve the border issue and we made that decision because we felt that this was crucial for the relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia," Penny Wong told Lusa in Perth.

"This dispute has been going on for a long time and we are very pleased that the Government has changed its policy and agreed to negotiate with Timor-Leste. We are very pleased that there is an agreement and we hope that this agreement will be finalized for the benefit of the people of Timor-Leste and the bilateral relationship, "he said.

Wong spoke to Lusa in Perth on the fringes of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference, which included the heads of the Government of Australia and Timor-Leste, Malcolm Turnbull and Mari Alkatiri, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"I hope this is a major step forward for the people of Timor-Leste. A border agreement was late in arriving and has become a problem for our relationship and we are very pleased that it is being resolved," he said.

In April 2016, before Timor-Leste and Australia began negotiations, the then shadow foreign minister of the Australian Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek, said that if the party arrived at the Government it was committed to negotiate with Timor-Leste the borders between the two countries.

"In addition to being a moral issue, it would certainly contribute to restoring the bilateral relationship to a proximity that should exist," Plibersek said at the time.

Plibersek's comments came after Timor-Leste reported to Australia that it had triggered a Compulsory Conciliation Procedure (PCO) at the United Nations to force Canberra to sit down at the negotiating table to define maritime boundaries.

A year later, on 30 August, the two countries reached an agreement on the "core elements" of the delimitation of maritime borders and on the legal status for the development of the Greater Sunrise gas well in the Timor Sea.

The agreement covers "the central elements of border boundary delimitation in the Timor Sea (...) addressing the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field, the establishment of a special regime for Greater Sunrise, a path to resource development and the resulting revenue sharing ".

Signed last month in The Hague the treaty is due to be signed by the end of the year and the negotiations on Greater Sunrise are yet to be concluded.

The next round of talks on the issue, now involving oil companies, is taking place in Australia's Brisbane city on Sunday, with the Timorese delegation headed by Xanana Gusmão.

The Greater Sunrise fields, located in 1974, contain estimated reserves of 5.1 trillion cubic feet of gas and are located in the Timor Sea, approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Timor-Leste and 450 kilometers northwest of Darwin, in Australia.

The Greater Sunrise concession is controlled by Woodside (the operator with 33%) in addition to ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and Osaka Gas.

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