Subject: AU: Timor Sea deal backdown

The Australian

Timor deal backdown

February 07, 2007

FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer has withdrawn plans to invoke a rarely used national-interest exemption clause to fast-track ratification of the Timor Sea Treaty through parliament.

Mr Downer on Monday advised members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties that he wanted to rubber-stamp the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, signed more than a year ago.

A meeting scheduled for 7pm yesterday in which Mr Downer was to have explained his reasons for invoking the clause was cancelled late yesterday afternoon by the Foreign Minister.

It followed a report in The Australian yesterday in which Woodside chief executive Dan Voelte said early development of the lucrative Greater Sunrise oil and gas prospect had been dashed because of civil strife in East Timor.

Concerns have been raised on why no progress has been made on tabling the treaty since its signing.

Under CMATS, East Timor's revenue share of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas prospect straddling the boundary of the Joint Petroleum Development Area could be as much as $19 million.

Timorese critics have accused Canberra of sitting on its hands after promising the deal would be quickly ratified.

Mark Dodd


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