Subject: AFP: East Timor trying to win sympathy over oil claims: Australian FM

also AP: Australia: East Timor trying to whip up sympathy over boundary spat

Sunday April 25, 02:47 PM

East Timor trying to win sympathy over oil claims: Australian FM

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer accused East Timor of trying to stir up sympathy over its claims for a greater share of oil and gas revenues from the Timor Sea oil reserves.

The two countries are in dispute over the seabed boundary between the two countries, the drawing of which divides control of an estimated 30 billion dollars (22 billion US) in royalties from the oil and gas deposits.

"The tactic here is to try to create public controversy in Australia by a lot of emotive criticism of Australia," he told commercial television here Sunday.

Downer said Australia had been incredibly generous to East Timor, but in the battle for revenues Australia would stand by its rights.

Australia wants East Timor to honour an agreement signed last year covering the disputed multi-billion dollar Greater Sunrise field, which the former Indonesian province has so far refused.

East Timor regards the Timor Sea revenue as a lifeline that can end the fledgling nation's dependence on international aid.

Australia wants to keep the maritime border agreed with Jakarta after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, which would give it the lion's share of the reserves.

But Dili argues that Jakarta only agreed to that deal in exchange for Canberra's recognition of its illegal annexation of East Timor and the border should lie at the mid-point between the two countries, in line with standard international practice.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has said Dili is unlikely to ratify an interim revenue-sharing deal on the Timor Sea reserves because it gives East Timor only 18 percent of revenues while handing Canberra 82 percent.

Downer said East Timor would receive 90 percent of government revenue from a joint development area, whereas a previous deal with Indonesia would have resulted in a 50-50 split.

"In the end when two countries are adjacent with each other, if one is richer than the other that isn't an argument for the poorer country being able to take territory from the richer country," Downer added.

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Australia: East Timor trying to whip up sympathy over boundary spat

April 24, 2004 11:31pm Associated Press WorldStream

CANBERRA, Australia_Australia's foreign minister on Sunday accused East Timor of trying to whip up sympathy and controversy as the two neighbors attempt to negotiate a maritime boundary.

The boundary's location will determine how much each nation can claim from among billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas under the sea between them.

East Timor, one of the world's poorest nations, on Friday accused wealthy Australia of dragging out the talks so it can reap the benefits of a lucrative interim agreement.

"When two countries are adjacent with each other, if one is richer than the other, that isn't an argument for the poorer country being able to take territory from the richer country," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Ten Network television station on Sunday.

"The tactic here is to try to create public controversy in Australia by a lot of emotive criticism of Australia," he said.

Officials from both countries met for talks about the maritime border days ago in East Timor's capital, Dili.

"Australia has so far refused to negotiate in a manner that (may) bring this to a conclusion any time within a year," said Peter Galbraith, an American who's leading the East Timorese negotiating team, on Friday.

Galbraith also criticized Australia's refusal to take the dispute to an international court.

According to the U.N. Law of the Sea, wherever neighboring claims overlap, countries must negotiate a maritime boundary halfway between their coastlines.

But in 2002, Australia withdrew from the international tribunal governing the Law of the Sea, enabling it to retain control of a large portion of the disputed region, 150 kilometers (90 miles) from East Timor and 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Australia.


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