Subject: East Timor Fuming Over Australia's Plans For Oil, Gas Reserves

East Timor Fuming Over Australia's Plans For Oil, Gas Reserves

HOBART, April 22 Asia Pulse - The East Timorese were fuming over Australia's plans to steal their oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

Australia and East Timor began talks earlier this week to establish a permanent maritime boundary in the oil-rich Timor Sea.

The drawing of the boundary will divide up control of the estimated A$30 billion (US$21 million) in royalties from Timor Sea oil and gas deposits, including the multi-billion dollar Greater Sunrise field.

Australia has already won an 82 per cent slice of the Greater Sunrise royalties in a previous deal, but this is yet to be ratified by the East Timorese parliament.

East Timor wants the new seabed boundary no further away than halfway between the two countries - but Australia would lose potentially billions of dollars in royalties.

Senator Brown, who has just returned from a two-day trip to Dili, said the talks would end today without a resolution.

"What I have discovered in East Timor is that the East Timorese are fuming over the theft of their oil and gas reserves in the Timor sea," he told reporters in Hobart.

"They are all on East Timor's side of the halfway mark.

"They are East Timor's resource for developing the country.

"The Australian government is saying on the one hand that East Timor has to stop its dependency on aid and get on its own two feet, but on the other hand we are going to take the resource that gives you the revenues to build schools, to build hospitals, to pave roads, to have security."

Senator Brown said the issue should go to international arbitration.

"But the Howard government has said we won't allow that, we won't go to the international court of justice because we know this is unjust," he said.

He said the appropriate deal would be for Australia to help develop the oil fields, but recognise they belong to East Timor.

"The talks in Dili have achieved nothing except to point out the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri not going to ratify this agreement," Senator Brown said.

"I met Prime Minister Alkatiri yesterday and I can assure the Australian government that East Timor is not about to relent on this, nor should it."

He called on Opposition Leader Mark Latham to abide by Labor's policy to bring justice and a fair go into negotiating the sea boundaries with East Timor.

"Labor should promise to implement that policy, if elected," he said.

"That will provide the circuit-breaker here."


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