East Timor ACTION Network ALERT
Contact Your Representative to Sign a Congressional Letter Urging
Australia to Negotiate Fairly with East Timor
Call Today through
March 3 to Insist
that the U.S. Congress Send the Strongest Message Possible on a Permanent
Note new deadline!
Ask your representative to sign the Congressional letter being
circulating by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) to Australia’s prime
minister urging his government to fairly and expeditiously negotiate with
East Timor a permanent maritime boundary and equitable sharing of oil and
gas resources in the Timor Sea. The text of the letter
Over the last few weeks, hundreds of you sent a strong message to the
Australian government via its embassy in Washington that people in the
U.S. will not stand idly by as Australia robs East Timor. Now Australia’s
prime minister must hear the same support for East Timor from the U.S.
House of Representatives! We need to get as many representatives as
possible to sign this letter to send as loud a message as possible. Call
your representative today!
The Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Ask for your
representative's office, and then ask to speak with the foreign policy
aide. If you don't know who your representative is, go to
www.house.gov to find out.
Signers to date include: Barney Frank (MA);
Maurice Hinchey (NY); Raul
Grijalva (AZ); Lane Evans (IL);
Jim McGovern (MA); Dale
Kildee (MI); Donald
Payne (NJ); John Olver (MA);
Tammy Baldwin (WI); Ed Towns (D-NY);
Nita Lowey (NY);
Charles Rangel (NY); Dennis
Kucinich (OH); Patrick Kennedy (RI); James
Langevin (RI); Jim McDermott
(WA); Rahm Emanuel (IL); Carolyn Maloney (NY); Henry Waxman
(CA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Julia Carson
(IN), Ellen Tauscher (CA), Lantos
(CA), Anthony Weiner (NY),
(CA), Major Owens (NY), Berman (CA), Dennis Cardoza (CA),
(GU), Gary Ackerman (NY), Neil Abercrombie (HI), John Lewis (GA), Pete Stark (CA),
William Lipinski (IL), Barbara Lee (CA), Danny Davis (IL), Chris Smith (NJ),
Nancy Pelosi (CA); Ed Pastor (AZ); Janice
Schakowsky (IL), Robert
Wexler (FL); Peter DeFazio
(OR); Robert Andrews (NJ)
Tell your Representative to:
- Sign the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Representative
Barney Frank to Australia’s prime minister urging his government to move
seriously and expeditiously in negotiations with East Timor to establish
a fair, permanent maritime boundary and equitable sharing of oil and gas
resources in the Timor Sea.
- Without public pressure, Australia profits by waiting out the
exhaustion of oil and natural gas resources before agreeing to a
boundary. This revenue is worth tens of billions of dollars and belongs
to East Timor under current international law. These resources will
allow East Timor to avoid long-term aid dependency and escape dire
poverty as Southeast Asia’s poorest country.
- East Timor’s independence will not be complete until it knows the
extent of its territory and can benefit from its natural resources.
To sign the letter, Congressional offices should contact Daniel
McGlinchey (x 53548) in Representative Frank’s office by Friday, February
Please let us know the results of your efforts. Contact us at email@example.com
or fax (718-222-4096) with a copy of the letter you send. Thank you!
For more background, see
February 11, 2004
Although history has made it the poorest country in Southeast Asia,
East Timor -- the world's newest independent state -- could benefit from
large gas reserves that lie under the sea that separates it from
East Timor's parliament passed a maritime boundaries law in 2002
claiming a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone in all directions,
and the Timorese government, with the backing of the United Nations,
announced that it wanted to negotiate a permanent maritime boundary with
An agreement on permanent boundaries, and the consequent ability to
derive revenues from the development of offshore petroleum and other
resources, is essential to East Timor's ability to rebuild its nation,
alleviate mass poverty, and avoid long-term dependence on foreign aid.
Under normal international practice and legal principles established by
case and statutory law since the signing of the 1982 United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), drawing a line halfway between
the coastlines of two countries is the normal way to establish maritime
boundaries when two countries are closer than 400 nautical miles apart.
The Australian Government withdrew its consent, however, to the
maritime boundary jurisdiction of relevant international dispute
resolution bodies - the International Court of Justice and the mechanisms
under UNCLOS -- thus leaving East Timor at the mercy of bilateral
negotiations with its larger neighbor.
Several "interim" resource-sharing agreements have been signed by
Australia and East Timor for the development of some of these resources,
but there is no revenue sharing arrangement in place for several oil
fields currently being exploited by the Australian government, despite the
fact that they are twice as close to East Timor as to Australia. 80% of
the biggest single known resource in the Timor Sea - the Greater Sunrise
field, which is also closer to East Timor than Australia - also remains in
More than one year after East Timor's prime minister requested
negotiations on establishing a permanent maritime boundary, the Australian
prime minister agreed to begin talks last November, but he declined to
accept a timetable or an end date for resolving the issue.
An agreement on maritime boundaries is particularly pressing in light
of Australia's continuing issuance of licenses and active depletion of
resources in disputed areas. Australia stands to profit by waiting out the
exhaustion of oil and natural gas resources before agreeing to a boundary,
taking revenue that would not only belong to East Timor under normal
international practice, but would also help it escape from the dire
poverty and become independent of foreign donors.
Please join me on the attached letter (see reverse side) to the
Australian prime minister urging his government to move seriously and
expeditiously in negotiations with East Timor to establish a fair maritime
boundary and an equitable sharing of oil and gas resources in the Timor
If you have any questions or would like to sign this letter, please
email or call Daniel McGlinchey (x 53548) in my office by Friday, February
March xx, 2004
The Honorable John Howard
Office of the Australian Prime Minister
3-5 National Circuit
Barton, ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister Howard:
As members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are strong
supporters of East Timor, we write to urge your country to move seriously
and expeditiously in negotiations with East Timor to establish a fair,
permanent maritime boundary and an equitable sharing of oil and gas
resources in the Timor Sea.
We recognize the critical role your country played in East Timor's
fight for independence, and we know your diplomatic efforts were
instrumental in prompting the dialogue between Indonesian officials and
East Timorese nationalists that led to the vote for independence.
Australia's commitment to regional security, and its concern for East
Timor in particular, was also evident when you indicated last June that
Australian troops might remain in East Timor for years to prevent the
country from "coming under unacceptable strain and perhaps collapse."
As the poorest country in Southeast Asia, East Timor's dependence on
foreign aid is one factor that keeps it from consolidating its stability
and economic development, which of course adds greatly to the strain the
country continues to face. This is why we support the statement our
colleagues on the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
included in the report that accompanied this year's foreign aid bill
underscoring how important the negotiations over the maritime boundary and
the petroleum reserves are to the future economic development and security
of East Timor.
We also join our Senate colleagues in urging both governments to engage
in good faith negotiations to resolve their maritime boundary in
accordance with international legal principles, and we hope both
governments will agree to a legal process for an impartial resolution if
the boundary dispute cannot be settled by negotiation.
We also urge you to heed Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's call to
conclude negotiations within three to five years. We were pleased that a
preliminary meeting between your two governments was held in November, but
we were disappointed by your government's insistence that bilateral
meetings on the boundary be semi-annual and encourage you to hold them
monthly, as requested by East Timor.
Finally, given the overlapping claims of the two countries, we would
strongly hope that any revenue from disputed areas on East Timor's side of
the median line but outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area defined
in the Timor Sea Treaty be held in escrow until a permanent boundary is
We trust your country's commitment to the freedom and security of East
Timor will include recognition of East Timor's territorial integrity and
its right to a swift resolution of the maritime boundary dispute.