Subject: RA: Foreign Minister says ET will honour Timor Gap Treaty

Radio Australia

EAST TIMOR: Foreign Minister says ET will honour Timor Gap Treaty 28/03/2002 20:55:01 | Asia Pacific Programs

East Timor's Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jose Ramos Horta, says East Timor will honour a deal struck with Australia to share oil and gas resources from the Timor Sea. Two international lawyers told a seminar in Dili last weekend, that current maritime law would give East Timor much greater ownership of natural gas fields than it has under the July agreement, potentially bringing it billions of dollars in extra revenue. It's been reported that US oil company PetroTimor may offer East Timor the funds to challenge the demarkation of the sea-bed at the International Court of Justice - prompting Australia to declare that it will no longer submit to the world court's rulings on maritime boundaries.


HORTA: There is one principle, one rule in relations between states, you negotiate an agreement in good faith, we reached a deal July last year that was beneficial to East Timor. It is now incumbent upon the two sides to formalise this agreement into a treaty soon after independence, we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by then breaching this sacred rule of international relations, then (if) on day One of our independence we immediately reneg on an interim arrangement that we have reached with Australia, it would not be to the benefit of East Timor credibility with other countries and with potential investors.

MARES: Because a seminar this week in Dili, as I understand it, was told by two respected international lawyers that the deal that has been done has not been to East Timor's best advantage - that in fact the seabed boundary should give East Timor much greater control of those resources.

HORTA: I'm surprised that those so called experts did not show up a year ago - two years ago or ten years ago, or twenty years ago - where was Petro Timor five years ago? Where was Petro Timor twenty years ago? If they have any claims to the East Timor sea, why didn't they claim those rights, those concessions. In the course of twenty-five years they were completely silent in this quarter of a century, and only now after Phillips and others have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, and after the Australian government and the East Timorese having invested millions of dollars in this two years of negotiations, that they suddenly come with a brilliant discovery, that we are entitled to more.

MARES: Now you've made your position very clear, that you believe East Timor must stick to its agreement with Australia, the deal has been done, does everyone in East Timor agree with you on that though? Will you be able to carry the day on that politically?

HORTA: The head of the government, Dr Mari Alkatiri is the one who negotiated this over the two years with the backing of everybody, with the backing of Zanana Gusmao, myself and the United Nations. So I believe Mr Zanana Gusmao and the others will honour, will dignify their own government by sticking to the agreement, which they had supported from day One.

MARES: And how long do you think it will be before this deal is transformed into a binding contract between the two parties?

HORTA: It should be soon after independence. There are still some disputes between the Australian government itself and Phillips regarding tax matters, that does not involve the East Timorese side, we are now just waiting and hoping that the Australian government side does not lose more time with Phillips Petroleum on tax issues.

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28/03/2002 20:55:01 | Asia Pacific Programs

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