Subject: Brereton pushes East Timor case in Sunrise gas dispute

Canberra Times Brereton pushes East Timor case in Sunrise gas dispute

August 5, 2004 4:12pm Asia Intelligence Wire

Former Labor foreign-affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton has strongly urged the Government to back off from its take- all approach to the Greater Sunrise gas project on his return from a study trip to East Timor.

Mr Brereton, opposition foreign-affairs spokesman for 5 years, including when East Timor voted in 1999 for independence (achieved in May, 2002), said Australia, as one of the world's wealthiest countries, needed to change tack to avert the threat of East Timor becoming a failed state.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had to give ground when he met with Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, in Canberra on Wednesday.

'This should be followed by an early invitation from Prime Minister [John] Howard to meet [Timor's] Prime Minister [Mari] Alkatiri and settle the issue,' Mr Brereton reported when acquitting his parliamentary study entitlements.

He copied the letter to Mr Howard and Opposition Leader Mark Latham 'given the importance of these issues to the Australia-East Timor bilateral relationship'.

Australia had 'badly underestimated the determination of East Timor to secure a vastly better outcome'.

'The geographical location of Greater Sunrise [being] so much closer to East Timor than Australia is deeply felt in East Timor and Australia's argument that [excepting for the Joint Petroleum Development Area] our nation is entitled to all of the gas resources right up to East Timor's Timor Trench is totally rejected,' he wrote.

'I detected a sense of outrage towards Australia's decision - in the event of a failure to achieve settlement through bilateral negotiations - to rule out an international judicial determination based on the Law of the Sea.

'I was repeatedly presented with the view that Australia's claimed sovereignty over these waters is so flawed that Australia will not accept any final determination by the independent umpire, the International Court of Justice, as sought by East Timor.'

Copyright © 2004 The Federal Capital Press of Australia Pty Limited

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