Subject: Age: Dili still contesting sea treaty

The Age June 23, 2002

Dili still contesting sea treaty

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

Australia and East Timor moved a step forward in their plans to exploit Timor Sea hydrocarbon resources yesterday with the opening of a joint office in Dili. However, statements at the ceremony by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri made it clear the fledgling Democratic Republic of East Timor intends to continue contesting Australia's share of the potential spoils.

He said the Timor Sea Treaty signed in Dili on independence day, May 20, represented "an administrative contract, a framework for the two countries to solve their problems, such as the difficulty over maritime boundaries, which is the principal difference which divides us".

The new office is in a restored Portuguese villa on the Dili waterfront. Its main work will be to restart the massive Bayu Undan natural gas project, through which natural gas for domestic use could eventually be piped to Melbourne and Sydney via Darwin.

The May 20 treaty gives revenues of 90 per cent to East Timor and 10 per cent to Australia. Its framework came from the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty that gave de facto acceptance to Australia's claim to the continental shelf up to 200 kilometres from East Timor. No permanent maritime boundary between Australia and East Timor has been agreed on in modern times.

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