Subject: Lusa/Australian: Dili MPs ratify Timor Sea pact

17-12-2002 11:53:00. Notícia nº 4458885…

East Timor: Parliament ratifiesTimor Sea Treaty on oil, gas operations

Dili, Dec. 17 (Lusa) - Dili's parliament overwhelmingly ratified Tuesday the Timor Sea Treaty with Australia, a transitory document setting the framework for joint oil and gas operations.

After the vote, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri told Lusa that the move showed Canberra and energy companies that "we keep our commitments".

Alkatiri's comments appeared to be an implicit slap at Australia that has said it likely will only ratify the treaty, signed on East Timor's independence day, May 20, after Canberra's parliament reconvenes in February.

Dili has said there was an understanding in principle for both countries to ratify the treaty by the end of this year in order not to delay oil and gas investments and operations in the Sea of Timor.

The treaty sets the framework for the offshore operations.

Among other things, it attributes 90 percent of taxes and licenses from the so-called "joint operations" zones to Dili, leaving open future negotiations on maritime borders.

Crucial for Dili's coffers, revenues from the area are expected to top USD 43 million next year, with projections of about USD 102 million starting in 2004-2005.

Parliament ratified the treaty by a vote of 65 to 14 with no abstentions.

ASP/SAS -Lusa-

The Australian December 18, 2002

Dili MPs ratify Timor Sea pact

By Nigel Wilson, Energy writer

THE East Timor parliament has ratified the Timor Sea Treaty with Australia, further embarrassing the Howard Government.

The office of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri confirmed last night that parliament had voted 65 to 13 to approve the treaty on the administration of petroleum reserves between Darwin and Dili.

Gas discoveries covered by the treaty will be East Timor's main source of revenue, with the country's potential earnings estimated at up to $US40 billion ($71 billion) over the next 30 years.

The document was signed by Prime Minister John Howard and East Timor President Xanana Gusmao in Dili, on the country's foundation day on May 20, with the understanding it would be ratified by December 31.

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer last week reneged on that understanding by refusing to introduce the treaty in time for it to be debated before the parliament rose for the year. It will now not be introduced until February.

Australian officials have angered the East Timor Government by insisting an agreement covering the terms for development of the Sunrise gas reservoirs about 450km northwest of Darwin should be concluded before the treaty was ratified.

East Timor has been accused by some Australian officials and company representatives of holding up the treaty's ratification to secure better terms from the Sunrise negotiations.

The suggestion has infuriated East Timor, with Dr Alkatiri insisting his parliament would ratify the treaty inside the agreed timetable.

He said Australia's decision to withdraw from the UN laws of the sea convention on maritime bound aries ahead of the Timor treaty being signed was an unfriendly act.

In Darwin yesterday, talks on the Sunrise deal appeared to have made progress, with negotiations to continue until at least tomorrow.

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