Subject: LUSA: PM praises predecessor's role in fixing oil deal with Australia

East Timor: PM praises predecessor's role in fixing oil deal with Australia

Dili, Sept. 4 (Lusa) - Prime Minister José Ramos Horta paid tribute Monday to the negotiating skills and tough stance of his predecessor, Mari Alkatiri, in talks with Australia on the carving up of oil and gas resources in a disputed area of the Timor Sea.

Speaking in Dili after a three-way meeting of foreign ministers from Timor, Indonesia and Australia, Ramos Horta described the accord signed in January this year, after two years of frequently stalled and vexed negotiations, as "a job well done".

Alkatiri, head of the Timor's dominant Fretilin party, stood down as government chief in June after a simmering power standoff with President Xanana Gusmão, who fingered his prime minister and some government ministers as being largely to blame for the country's slide into bloodshed and anarchy this year.

Under the bilateral oil pact, Timor agreed to maintain the maritime boundary as it currently stands for 50 years in return for Australia offering to split revenue from the Greater Sunrise project on a 50/50 basis.

It is estimated that Dili's depleted state coffers could net some USD 14.5 billion over the next 10 to 20 years in the oil exploration zone concerned - separate from Dili and Canberra's Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA).

JCS/CJB.

Lusa


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