February 2001, Dili,
Dr. Mari Alkatiri,
Cabinet Member for Economic Affairs
I am honoured to enclose my findings on the subject of the Timor Gap Treaty and maritime boundaries of
The Timor Gap Treaty versus an
The topic of international maritime boundaries is technically complex and always subject to shifting political conditions. Nevertheless, I believe it is of prime importance in drawing a believable design of the economy of
In spite of this, before leaving the service of UNTAET, at the end of March, I believe it is my duty to inform you of my findings. I am all too aware that you, having followed the negotiation process for years, will find nothing new in my proposal, which is as follows:
The basic premise for my line of thinking is that the Timor Gap Treaty entered into under the provisions of Paragraph 3 of Article 83 of UNCLOS and other maritime boundary agreements subscribed between
Should the above be a valid assumption, then the oil companies operating in the area will face a legal vacuum when the sovereign state of
The 1982 UNCLOS entitles every state with a coastline to claim;
A 12 nautical mile territorial sea measured from baselines (lines drawn along the general direction of the coast following the Convention's rules)
A further 12 nautical miles contiguous zone in which nations can "prevent and punish infringement" of their customs, fiscal, immigration or environmental laws and regulations within their territory or territorial sea.
A continental shelf ‑the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond the territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of a state's land territory ‑ to a maximum of 300 nautical miles;
An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending 200 nm from baselines and in which states have sovereign rights over resources and all related activities, as well as jurisdiction over "artificial" structures, marine scientific research and the conservation of the marine environment.
Of specific relevance to
"Where the coast of the two states are opposite or adjacent to each other, neither of the two states is entitled, failing agreement to the contrary, to extend its territorial sea beyond the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the basis from which the breadth of the territorial sea of each two states is measured."
Therefore, the first step before a country enters into negotiations to define boundaries is the establishment of the line of equidistance, which is located at the same distance from the nearest point of the baselines of each state. Having done this the negotiating countries determine whether there are sound arguments of why the line of equidistance is inequitable and should be adjusted in favour of one or the other state. In the particular case of
The Timor Sea with
The Straits of Wetar and Ombai with
The Oecussi Enclave in the
The main concern to ETTA and to the sovereign government should be the establishment of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Timor Sea to replace the transitional agreement as set by the Timor Gap Treaty between
International maritime boundary institutions and experts have devoted time and interest to East Timor's three equidistant lines in the
Let me be more specific, in January, I posed the following question to a knowledgeable analyst of legal issues related to maritime boundaries:
"Does the establishment of East Timor's lateral maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea mean that Greater Sunrise Field in the East and Laminaria/Corralina and Buffalo Fields in the West, will fall into East Timor's EEX according to UCLOS drawn lines of equidistance? "
The source, which has asked to remain anonymous, has stated the following on contentious issues:
"The Australian Government has thus far argues for the preservation of the status quo ‑ to the extent that the issue of lateral EEZ has been raised, and I emphasise that it has not in any substantive detail. The Australian position, compendiously stated, is that the lateral boundaries (closing lines) of the present Timor Gap Treaty Zone of Cooperation must prevail, based as they are on application of geographic factors, and of course, the interior terminal points A16 and A17, of the 1972 Australian ‑ Indonesia Continental Shelf Treaty. It all sounds tidy, but are neither spatially nor legally correct.
East Timor can and should argue for a greater EEZ jurisdiction in the
On the lateral lines and the establishment of
"The eastern "lateral" boundary should not necessarily follow the lateral closing line of the Timor Gap Treaty Zone of Cooperation, but should be adjusted or shifted further to the east, to account for the fact that the Timor Gap Treaty areas are not based on a notional (seabed/continental shelf) boundary which should properly extend from a median point between Jaco Island and Leti. The eastern lateral line should proceed southeast through point A15 of the 1972 Australia Indonesia Continental Shelf Treaty boundary, and not point A16, which lies 4.8 nautical miles southwest of Point A15. Thus to determine which state has the soundest claim to jurisdiction over the above oil and gas field, one needs to determine East Timor's eventual EEZ east and west, or lateral boundaries."
On the lateral boundaries and the oil and gas fields:
"The jurisdiction over the oil and gas fields will only be determined by a delineation of the so‑called lateral boundaries of East Timor's EEZ, which will project away from the new state, roughly to the south (but slightly east) into the Timor Sea. Here the question of the western lateral boundary will extend from the mouth (thalweg) if the
The eastern lateral boundary will extend from a median line in the
On oil fields that would fall into
"The following oil and gas fields presently lie within a median line EEZ boundary between East Timor and Australia, and within the current lateral "boundaries" (closing lines) of the Zone of Cooperation: Sunset West 1, Sunset 1 and Jahal 1 (sic). I add that I am reluctant to state an opinion over the jurisdiction over the well referred to as "Bard 1 ". I simply do not have an accurate position for the well in its permit block. The following oil and gas fields lie within a median line EEZ boundary, but are currently outside the eastern lateral "boundary" of the Zone of Cooperation: Troubador 1,
At least the Troubador and
To the east, I conclude that the following oil and gas wells/fields would lie within a median line and a corrected or expanded lateral EEZ boundary west of the present ZOC: Corallina and Laminaria (both in block AC/LC‑5), and Buffalo 1 and 2.
You ask about possible jurisdiction over "Buang I"; which I assume to be "Buller I ". Buller 1 lies about 3 nm just west of the ZOC closing line, in block WA‑260‑P and will readily fall within a proper EEZ delineation establishing East Timor's jurisdiction in the area. A final issue; in the analysis, East Timor's EEZ should properly project south from the Masin River along an azimuth of about 165 degrees, which ‑ at minimum ‑ will result in the western lateral boundary of the EEZ projecting through Point A18 of the 1972 treaty. This point is considerably to the west of the wells/fields at paragraph as above. In other words, the widening of the Timor Gap to account for
The Australian Senate's report on East Timor (December 2000), in its Chapter Four on the Timor Gap Treaty, recommends that "the Australian Government should take into account international law in relation to seabed boundaries". This can be interpreted to be a cornerstone for more generous public opinion/attitude towards the establishment of the southern equidistant line of an East Timorese EEZ in the
The above information and analysis should be construed as one of many actions leading to the establishment of an East Timor Exclusive Economic Zone in the
If ETTA/UNTAET would finally accept to enter into a solid programme of boundary delineation (while international public opinion favours East Timor), it would be advisable that it start with tentative negotiations with
Finally, I want to thank you and your East Timorese colleagues for the generous hospitality and courtesy bestowed on me. It has been an honour to work for you and the East Timorese people.
Ramiro V. Paz