Subject: Lusa: First Round of Timor Gap Talks Ends in Dili

East Timor: First Round of Timor Gap Talks Ends in Dili 12 Oct-20:23

The first official round of talks between East Timor and Australia on oil reserves in the off-shore Timor Gap region ended Thursday in Dili.

Participants did not provide details of discussion topics. Both sides reportedly staked out their initial positions, but did not schedule a new round of talks.

The East Timorese delegation nevertheless was optimistic, particularly after the Australian government admitted some leeway on the matter of dividing Timor Gap income, which is currently split evenly between the two sides.

The head of the East Timorese delegation, Mari Alkatiri, told Lusa that the first round had served only to "present points of view."

"Each one will now return home and study the other´s proposals, before scheduling a new round, which may take place before the end of the month," he said.

Alkatiri did not provide details of proposals presented at the talks, but confirmed that for the East Timorese delimitation of the maritime frontier continues to be more important than the income question.

The Australian proposal centered on the income question, the East Timorese official said, adding that he was "confident" that Canberra was "ready to concede on this question." The head of the Australian delegation, Michael Potts, told Lusa that the first round of talks had been "very useful to clarify themes and positions."

"The tone was very constructive. Although it's very early and there's still a lot of work to be done, I think that if we continue like this we will be able to find a long lasting solution to the question," he added.

The oil-rich Timor Gap lies in the Timor Sea between the island of Timor and northern Australia. Division of income from its oil reserves is one of the most complex matters facing the emerging nation of East Timor, which was nominally represented at the Dili talks by its UN Transition Administration (UNTAET).

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