Subject: NZ: E Timor kept waiting in boundaries talks

NZ Herald

Sunday August 17, 2003

East Timor kept waiting in boundaries talks

16.08.2003 - By EUGENE BINGHAM

East Timor, a special observer at the Pacific Forum, has its own problems with the Big Country.

With relationships between Australia and smaller Pacific nations proving a point of tension at the forum in Auckland, the Prime Minister of East Timor revealed last night that he had his own frustrations with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Dr Mari Alkatiri said the Timorese had been trying to negotiate maritime boundaries with Australia. The boundaries will have major economic implications for the 16-month-old nation.

But Timor's request to begin negotiations went a long time without response from the Australians, and when the response arrived it was short on details.

"On August 1, finally, Mr Howard responded to our letter of five months ago," said Dr Alkatiri, adding that the Australians had not set a timeframe for the talks.

"We are not going to embark on negotiations without end, without a timeframe, because those areas have a lot of resources and investors prefer a very stable regime," he said.

Asked whether Australia's response was acceptable, he diplomatically replied: "They have their own domestic procedures ... "

The extent of Timor's maritime boundaries will dictate how much it will benefit from the Greater Sunrise gasfield.

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