|Subject: Australia-Timor border deal
Australia-Timor border deal 'close' By Karen Michelmore 30jun05
AUSTRALIA and East Timor are close to striking a deal on a maritime boundary, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said tonight.
The East Timor Government was considering a draft deal, and it was likely there would be no need for further talks, he said.
"The officials have reached agreement and they've now referred it back to (the) ministers," Mr Downer said.
"But we await the decision of the East Timorese Prime Minister and ministers on whether they are happy with what the officials have negotiated.
"When we hear some positive messages from them, we'll take it back to our own Cabinet."
Mr Downer said he would meet East Timor President Xanana Gusmao in Sydney next week, but it the Easy Timor Prime Minister and Cabinet would make the decision on the deal.
Simply put, the dispute is over how the boundary between Australia and East Timor should be set.
Traditional international methods do so either by following the continental shelf or placing the boundary halfway between the countries involved.
A change to the boundary will give East Timor more revenue from oil and gas reserves in the area.
Timor officials said three weeks ago that good progress had been made, but details had to be discussed.
Mr Downer described those issues as "drafting details".
"They've got their own processes in East Timor to go through," he said.
"I don't think my Cabinet colleagues will have too many problems with what my officials have negotiated."
Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane told a gas conference in Darwin earlier this month that East Timor stood to earn an extra $US5 billion from an increased share of the revenues from the Greater Sunrise development.
That was on top of the 90 per cent share the nation has in the joint petroleum development area with Australia, worth $US14 billion over the next 20 years, Senator Macfarlane said.
The deal adopted the East Timorese principle of setting aside maritime claims on the sea bed for some 50 years in return for East Timor getting an increased share of Greater Sunrise revenues, he said.