Subject: West Timor wants share of Gap oil


KUPANG, Indonesia, Feb 28

ANTARA East Nusa Tenggara (West Timor) government officials and politicians seem set to launch a campaign to secure a share for their province in the rights to exploit the oil-rich Timor Gap.

Governor Piet A Tallo SH Saturday questioned a recent Australian government statement that with the separation of East Timor from Indonesia, Australia was the most eligible claimant to the oil-rich shelf in the seas off Timor island.

He said Australia was in no position to unilaterally determine to whom the Timor Gap should now lawfully belong.

"It is unacceptable, if Australia arbitrarily says that West Timor has no right to the gas and oil deposits in the Timor Gap," Tallo said Saturday.

He was commenting on the Australian statement saying that Jakarta had fully handed its share in the Timor Gap to the United Nations following the separation of East Timor from Indonesia.

Tallo also questioned the legal basis for Australia's statement that it was the most eligible claimant to the entire shelf in the Timor Gap.

"On what legal basis does Australia maintain that Indonesia no longer has any right to the gap. They cannot do that. In the relations between Indonesia and Australia there must be mutual respect and an ethical attitude," he said.

He further said the Timor Gap issue must be studied from various angles first, especially from that of international law, and the territorial borderlines between the three countries (Indonesia, Australia and East Timor) must be reverified as these lines were drawn during the colonial era.

"So we must first look at maps and only then do we know where our continental borderlines are," he said.

Tallo said he himself as governor of West Timor which shares a land border with East Timor still did not know exactly where the Timor Gap was located.

He said he would discuss the issue with central government officials in Jakarta, especially with the Mines and Energy Ministry which was believed to know much about the Timor Gap.

On a separate occasion, Daniel Woda Palle, chairman of the East Nusatenggara Provincial Legislative Assembly (DPRD), said the assembly would make unrelenting efforts "together with the people of Eas Nusatenggara" to obtain a share in the rights to the Timor Gap.

Palle said Australia's apparent keenness in bringing up the Timor Gap question was suspect.

"I think we need to wonder why Australia is so keen on raising the question whereas East Timor is formally not a state yet," he said.

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