Subject: Dili aims to claim full maritime boundaries in Timor Sea

also: Maritime boundary legislation passed by National Parliament of East Timor

East Timor: Dili aims to claim full maritime boundaries in Timor Sea

Lusa 9.7.2002

East Timor`s parliament approved a draft bill Tuesday on maritime borders, paving the way for the ratification of the potentially lucrative Timor Sea oil and gas treaty, signed in May by Dili and Canberra during the new nation`s independence celebrations.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, Timor`s main negotiator of the oil treaty, told parliament that the new legislation would define a continental shelf and establish an exclusive economic zone, extending for 200 nautical miles from the Timorese coast.

"This is a very important day in the history of East Timor. This legislation will establish Timor`s claims to the largest possible sea borders, in accordance with international law", Alkatiri told the Dili parliament.

Alkatiri, who also heads the majority Fretilin party in parliament, said the new bill would confirm Dili`s claim to not only oil and gas, but also fish resources. The draft legislation was approved by 77 of the 88-seat legislature, with one MP abstaining and ten being absent.

Timor`s intention to claim its full maritime boundaries, instead of those previously defined for it by Australia and Indonesia, means some areas of the Timor Sea will be jointly claimed.

The new legislation was "normal" for a new country like East Timor, Alkatiri said in a press release, and was similar to existing laws in both Indonesia and Australia, he added.

"In area where there could be overlapping, we hope to begin calm and swift negotiations with the parties involved", said Alkatiri.

"East Timor is a small country, recovering after decades of occupation, and our neighbors are strong and rich.

However, I believe that Indonesia and Australia will be fair in the negotiations", Alkatiri added in the communique.

Press release provided by the The Dili office of the Timor Sea Designated Authority, full text.


Media Release

Maritime boundary legislation passed by National Parliament of East Timor

Tuesday 9 July 2002

The Prime Minister of East Timor, Dr Mari Alkatiri, today announced that the National Parliament had passed the Maritime Zones Act, which establishes East Timor’s maritime boundary claims.

“This is a very important day in East Timor’s history,” said Dr. Alkatiri. “This legislation establishes East Timor’s maritime boundary claims to the greatest possible extent, consistent with international law.”

The Maritime Zones Act describes a continental shelf and exclusive economic zone for East Timor which extend two hundred nautical miles from the low-water line of East Timor’s coast. The seabed around East Timor is rich in petroleum deposits and the waters are attractive for the fishing industry.

Mari Alkatiri pointed out that this legislation sets out claims to petroleum deposits and fishing zones which overlap with claims of Indonesia and Australia.

“It would be a mistake to view this legislation as an aggressive move by East Timor” said Prime Minister Alkatiri, “but at the same time, the East Timorese people, as a newly independent country, must not be afraid of asserting their rights in the international community.”

“It is a very normal piece of legislation for a new country like East Timor, which has no maritime boundaries with its neighbours, to adopt. It is very similar to Indonesian and Australian legislation. Where there are any areas of overlap, we look forward to peaceful and expeditious negotiations on those areas, to resolve any differences according to the law”.

In February this year, the Government of Indonesia indicated at a meeting in Bali that it was keen to begin the process of negotiating maritime boundaries with East Timor once East Timor was independent. On 31 May, the Australian Government stated that it supported the use of negotiation to settle maritime boundaries, and that it would consider proposals put forward by East Timor on maritime boundaries. Prime Minister Alkatiri has welcomed the stance taken by the Indonesian and Australian Governments, and has said that East Timor will be putting maritime boundary proposals to Indonesia and Australia in the near future.

“East Timor is a tiny country, recovering from decades of occupation; its neighbours are big, and rich. However I believe that Indonesia and Australia will play fair in the coming negotiations. In recent times they have each been good neighbours to East Timor. It is in nobody’s interest for East Timor to be denied maritime boundaries.”

Mari Alkatiri has made it clear that he will not allow East Timor’s maritime boundary claims to prejudice investment under the Timor Sea Treaty, a petroleum revenue-sharing treaty signed by East Timor and Australia on 20 May this year, but not yet ratified.

“Maritime boundaries will bring about much greater certainty for the petroleum companies, including the companies which are now investing”, he said. “East Timor is committed to ensuring that, when boundaries are drawn up, the current stable conditions for investment in the Timor Sea, including the current Timor Sea Treaty area, are maintained.”

Other Timor Sea developments

The East Timor and Australian Governments are each in the process of ratifying the Timor Sea Treaty. Officials from East Timor and Australia are continuing in discussions regarding a Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise, a petroleum field in the Timor Sea Treaty area. In a Memorandum of Understanding signed on 20 May 2002, East Timor and Australia committed to finish the Unitisation Agreement by the end of the year.

The Australian Government is considering a tax and fiscal package which will allow another field, Bayu-Undan, to be developed. The Bayu-Undan development will be the first major development in the Treaty area, involving a gas pipeline to Darwin, Australia, and large revenues to the governments of East Timor and Australia.

The Dili office of the Timor Sea Designated Authority, which will administer the Timor Sea Treaty area once the Treaty has been ratified, was officially opened on Saturday 22 June by Prime Minister Alkatiri. The Australian Government was represented by Mr. John Michell, charge d’affaires at the Australian Embassy in East Timor. Under the terms of the Timor Sea Treaty, the headquarters of the Authority will move from Darwin to be in Dili, and will eventually become part of the East Timor Government.


Media enquiries: Jonathan Morrow +61 408 843 855 
Manuel de Lemos +61 408 872 137



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