Subject: Radio National: East Timor ups ante in oil and gas fight

The World Today - Thursday, 16 December , 2004 12:30:00

Reporter: Anne Barker

ELEANOR HALL: East Timor has upped the ante in its dispute with Australia over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

The country's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, is threatening to launch the biggest international campaign since the anti-apartheid protests of the 70s and 80s, to pressure Australia for a better share of the royalties.

And he claims to have the support of heavyweights like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, even Hollywood.

Northern Australia Correspondent, Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: For three decades Jose Ramos Horta has played the world stage, as an ambassador for the East Timorese cause.

Many of the years before independence he spent on the diplomatic circuit in New York and Europe, rallying world leaders in the long fight against Indonesian occupation.

But now, as East Timor's Foreign Minister, he's threatening to wield that same diplomatic clout against Australia, by lobbying the international community, including big names in Hollywood, to shame Australia over its stance on Timor Sea oil.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: If the negotiations completely break down we certainly talk with friends around the world, not only Hollywood but politicians, intellectuals, academics, normal people in the streets, in Australia and around the world.

ANNE BARKER: The long running talks over oil and gas royalties broke down in October when Australian negotiators walked out leaving one of the most lucrative ventures in the Timor Sea in danger of collapse.

Australia has ruled out any more talks until East Timor accepts a permanent maritime boundary on Australia's terms, and Canberra has refused to settle the matter in the international court.

But Jose Ramos Horta says if Australia doesn't come round, he'll mobilise one of the biggest campaigns the world has seen since the anti-apartheid era.

And he's confident East Timor will have the world's elite onside.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: It will be Australia that has to explain to the international community why it refuses other western democracy that lectures other countries about international law, about human rights… Australia will have to explain why it refuses to accept jurisdiction on the international court of justice.

ANNE BARKER: How much international support do you believe East Timor has on this issue?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: We have tremendous international support, the European Union, Commonwealth countries, Non Align Movement, I do not know of a single country that is not sympathetic to East Timorese situation.

ELEANOR HALL: East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, speaking to Anne Barker.

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