Subject: Lusa: FM optimistic of 'just' accord with Canberra on Timor Sea oil

12-08-2004 12:49:00 GMT . Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-6261540 Temas:

East Timor: FM optimistic of 'just' accord with Canberra on Timor Sea oil

Dili, August 12 (Lusa) - After talks with his Australian counterpart on Dili and Canberra`s diputed maritime boundaries and the division of oil receipts, East Timor`s foreign minister says there is now a "highly fruitful understanding" between the two countries, which will result in a "just and fair" final deal this year.

José Ramos Horta, in comments to Lusa Wednesday, said Dili`s leaders would "continue to work vigorously to build on the understanding reached today".

Timor`s top diplomat had been invited to talks in Canberra by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on the two nations` contentious seabed frontier and its immediate consequences to the carving up of Timor Sea oil and gas reserves.

Both ministers were optimistic after their private meeting that they were getting closer to agreeing a framework for a settlement and an accord could be finalized by the end of the year "I think as a result of these talks we can find a way through that will benefit the people of Timor and will also be satisfactory to Australians", said Downer.

Ramos Horta had said both parties had adopted a "creative approach" to seeking a deal on their disputed ocean frontier.

Neither minister gave details of the discussions, but observers said it appears that Australia is prepared to give Timor a bigger slice of Timor Sea hydrocarbon receipts.

Underpinning Dili and Canberra`s dispute is their maritime frontier, which Timor says should be re-drawn to half-way between the two countries to boost its share of oil and gas revenues.

The sea border was agreed between Australia and Indonesia during Jakarta`s occupation of Timor.

Oil companies have threatened to pull out of oil and gas projects in the Timor Sea if political squabbling continues into 2005.

Formal negotiations on the Timor Sea between Dili and Canberra, which began with a first round of talks in April and soon became deadlocked, are scheduled to recommence in September.

Timor is one of the world`s poorest nations and says offshore oil revenue is the only way to break its foreign aid dependency.


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