|Subject: SMH: UN court threat over Timor
Sydney Morning Herald October 10, 2000
UN court threat over Timor oil
By DAVID LAGUE
Australia may find itself in renewed conflict with the United Nations if the Howard Government continues to take a tough line in negotiations over a new treaty to divide mineral wealth in the Timor Sea.
Ahead of talks starting in Dili yesterday, negotiators with the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor warned that the UN was prepared to take Australia to the International Court of Justice to win a fair slice of oil and gas reserves potentially worth billions of dollars for the impoverished East Timorese.
Australia, already at loggerheads with the UN after attacking the world body's human rights monitoring committees, has refused to disclose what terms it is seeking from the new treaty to replace the Timor Gap treaty signed with Indonesia in 1989. Under that treaty, Timor Gap revenue was to be shared equally between Australia and Indonesia.
However, the strong UN warning following earlier talks with Australian officials suggests that at the three-day talks in Dili the Government plans to contest the East Timorese leadership's claim on 90 per cent of the revenue.
The UN's senior negotiator in Dili, Mr Peter Galbraith, was reported yesterday as saying he was confident of East Timor's legal position and would go to the international court if the talks failed.
"There is a sense of injustice. The view of East Timor ... was that the Australian-Indonesian treaty was illegal because Indonesia didn't have the authority to make any decisions."
The Opposition and the Democrats have urged the Government to consider the welfare of East Timor as it prepares to become an independent nation under UN guidance.
The Opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Mr Laurie Brereton, said that in the negotiations the Government should take account of maritime law and the importance of boosting East Timor's economic viability and financial independence.
The Democrats' foreign affairs spokeswoman, Senator Vicki Bourne, said the UN was clearly worried that the Howard Government wanted a bigger share of the income.
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