Subject: E. Timor, Australia still far apart after first round of sea
Received from Joyo Indonesia News
Agence France Presse
April 23, 2004
East Timor, Australia still far apart after first round of sea border talks
East Timor on Friday accused Australia of dragging its feet in negotiations to settle their maritime border after a first round of talks ended without any apparent agreement.
Billions of dollars in offshore oil and gas revenues are at stake in the talks, which began Monday in the East Timor capital and wound up Thursday.
Australia wants to keep the border which was agreed with Jakarta after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. This would give it the lion's share of reserves.
East Timor, which became independent in 2002, says the border should lie at the mid-point between the two countries.
Peter Galbraith, head of Dili's negotiating team, said Canberra has proposed the next meeting be held in Australia in September even though East Timor wants monthly meetings.
East Timor claims it is losing a million dollars a day due to what it calls Australia's illegal exploitation of resources in a disputed area of the Greater Sunrise field.
"What is unfair is that is Australia has so far refused to negotiate in a manner that will bring a conclusion any time soon," Galbraith told a press conference.
"It has tried to block a court from considering it, and continued to take resources found in the disputed area."
He urged Canberra either to reverse its refusal to accept international arbitration or to stop the exploitation until a final agreement is reached.
"I can promise you that there is only one reason you try to stay out of a court, and that is because you think you will lose in court," Galbraith said.
In March 2002 Australia withdrew from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea before the dispute reached the arbiter. East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri described this at the time as "a hostile act".
East Timor was Asia's poorest nation upon independence.
Agence France Presse
April 22, 2004 Thursday
Australia refuses arbitration to settle Timor boundary dispute
SYDNEY, April 22
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer rejected appeals to settle a maritime boundary dispute with East Timor in international courts Thursday and lashed critics who accuse Canberra of bullying its impoverished neighbour.
Downer said "outsiders" were not needed to settle the boundary dispute, which will determine who controls billions of dollars in oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.
"We can negotiate this thing with the East Timorese," Downer told reporters. "We don't need outsiders' help to do that, we don't need outside help to assist us to negotiate our maritime boundaries."
In March 2002, Australia withdrew from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea before the dispute reached the arbiter in what East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri described as "a hostile act".
Downer accused Greens senator Bob Brown, a staunch critic of Australia's stance who has just returned from a trip to the East Timor capital Dili, of disloyalty for suggesting Canberra submit to an international court.
"He should be on Australia's side," Downer said. "I hope all of our senators would back Australia; if he doesn't back Australia ... (if he) wants to back foreigners, well I don't think Australians would appreciate that."
Alkatiri has said Dili is unlikely to ratify an interim revenue-sharing deal on the Timor Sea oil and gas reserves because gives East Timor only 18 percent of revenues while handing Canberra 82 percent.
East Timor regards the Timor Sea revenue as a lifeline that can end the nation's dependence on international aid.
Australia wants to keep the maritime border it agreed with Jakarta after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, which would give it the lion's share of the reserves.
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.
Talks aimed at settling the border dispute are scheduled to wrap up in Dili Friday but a resolution appears unlikely, with East Timor accusing Australia of dragging its feet so it can make the most of the lucrative interim revenue-sharing arrangement.
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