Subject: Lusa: Five-year deadline to settle sea border with Australia - Alkatiri

East Timor: Five-year deadline to settle sea border with Australia - Alkatiri

Dili, Aug. 11 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said Monday that East Timor wants Australia to agree to the immediate start of negotiations on the demarcation of their maritime borders in the oil- and gas-rich Timor Sea.

In comments to Lusa in Dili, Alkatiri underlined that he wanted to see the issue, which implicates hundreds of millions of euros in future offshore revenues, resolved in "a maximum of three to five years".

"I want to see a date for the conclusion of negotiations", Alkatiri stressed. "I'm not in this for entertainment. I want to face this issue with seriousness and don't want to wander around entertaining myself for years".

The remarks came a few days after Alkatiri received a letter from his Australian counterpart, John Howard, expressing Canberra's readiness to open talks on the maritime borders by year's end.

Howard's response followed months of mounting pressure from Dili for the start of negotiations, with the East Timorese arguing that the existing indefinition over oil- and gas-rich areas of the Timor Sea placed potential investments in jeopardy.

Until the maritime borders are demarcated, the bilateral Timor Sea Treaty, signed in 2002, but only ratified by Canberra last March, serves as the framework for shared resource-rich areas claimed by both countries.

Under the treaty, Dili gets 90 percent of tax and royalty revenues from most of the disputed zones, but leaves one particularly rich area - Greater Sunrise - largely under Canberra's control.


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