Subject: ABC: Watching maritime border issues closely (transcript)

INDONESIA: Watching maritime border issues closely

Indonesia is moving to settle its maritime border issues with East Timor and is keen to see Australia do the same, according to a senior government advisor. East Timor is keen to renegotiate its maritime boundaries with Australia to maximise its share of the rich Timor Sea oil and gas resources, a move Australia is resisting. Indonesia, however, is watching developments closely.


Presenter/Interviewer: Karon Snowdon, Finance correspondent Speakers: Professor Hasjim Djalal, a former ambassador and now a senior advisor on maritime affairs to the Indonesian government

SNOWDON: Australia is keen to preserve the existing boundaries between itself and East Timor based on the Timor Sea Treaty signed earlier this year and which it says is fair to all sides.

The result is a 90 to 10 per cent split in East Timor's favour of the revenues from the joint petroleum development area. Those boundaries are based on the 1972 agreement between Australia and Indonesia, which created the Timor Gap and the division of resources.

While Australia and now it seems Indonesia will be happy to have the existing boundaries made the permanent borders, East Timor has indicated it might want to change them in order to access the larger and more valuable resources of the Greater Sunrise Field, which mostly falls outside the treaty boundaries.

Complicating the picture is that while Australia owns the seabed resources of Greater Sunrise, the waters around it fall under Indonesia's economic zone.

Hasjim Djalal says Indonesia would expect to be consulted if there are any changes, making any negotiation a three-way affair and potentially a more complicated one, something Australia understandably wants to contain as much as possible.

Professor Djalal says there have been some constructive moves in Indonesia to negotiate its separate issues with East Timor, and says Australia should just sit down and get on with it too.

DJALAL: Now how I were to negotiate with East Timor? I should refrain from expressing my views, but if you ask me is Indonesia asking for renegotiation of the boundary between Indonesia and Australia on the seabed as well as economic zone, my answer is that so far I have not heard anything on that from the Indonesian side.

SNOWDON: So would Indonesia be most comfortable with as much as the status quo remaining?

DJALAL: Well yes but whatever status quo we have that must be agreed upon and I'm not so sure why we cannot find an agreement as quickly as possible, but you have to sit down on that one to agree.

SNOWDON: Would you be urging Australia to get on with the job and negotiate as soon as possible with East Timor?

DJALAL: Yes, again I must refresh what I cannot say anything for Australia, but I would urge Indonesia and East Timor to sit down. I would urge Indonesia and Australia and East Timor also sit down to discuss the matter. But whether Australia and East Timor will sit down and agree on a boundary, that's for them to decide.

SNOWDON: And from Indonesia's point of view what's most important having boundaries established and settled and having the matter finalised or Indonesia being part of the negotiations if there is economic benefit to be had through a shifting of boundaries?

DJALAL: Well as I said already the fixing of the boundary is important for all of us but then the second thing is whether in the existing arrangement Indonesia has interest, the answer is very clearly yes. The second thing is in the agreement of 1997 there is already the principle that some of your seabed resources are in fact under Indonesian economic zone as we have agreed, and the agreement says that the parties will consult so that it will not prejudice the right of the others. Now my feeling is of course that Indonesia and Australia will have to consult on that one.

SNOWDON: So Australia does have to sit down at the table with Indonesia?

DJALAL: I think so yes.

SNOWDON: And as soon as possible?

DJALAL: Yes, so that there will be no misunderstanding in the future. 26/9/2002

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