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Timor-Leste Government
 Media Release

22 March 2004


Australian Government claims that the Greater Sunrise field lies partly in an area of sole Australian jurisdiction contradict the International Unitisation Agreement and undermine prospects for its approval, said Timor-Leste Prime Minister, Dr. Mari Alkatri.

In the course of pursuing ratification of the Greater Sunrise IUA, the Australian Government has repeatedly asserted that Greater Sunrise lies partly in an area of exclusive Australian jurisdiction. The IUA, however, clearly states that this is an area of overlapping claims. 

Australian parliamentarians and other government officials have made such statements in defending the IUA before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), and to the Australian people.  The claim was also made repeatedly in seeking passage of the legislation that would implement the Sunrise IUA – both in the explanatory memorandum that was presented with the legislation, and in oral defense of it.

“We signed this agreement on the clear understanding that Australia recognized our claims and sought not to prejudice our rights in the Timor Sea, as stated in the IUA, and that consequently, it would engage in good faith negotiations on permanent boundaries”, said Dr. Alkatiri.

Timor-Leste has proposed monthly meetings aimed at resolving this dispute expeditiously. Australia has said it only has resources to meet twice a year. Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Australia one of the richest.

“While delaying on negotiations, Australia has issued new licenses in disputed areas near Sunrise, and is continuing to derive revenues from other disputed parts of the Timor Sea”, according to Dr. Alkatiri.  

Since signing the IUA in March 2003, Australia has issued two exploration licenses in disputed areas adjacent to the Greater Sunrise field.  Further, Australia had earned an estimated US$1.5 billion since 1999 from the Corallina, Laminaria and Buffalo fields, which are also in disputed areas.

“Australia’s unilateral exploitation is inconsistent with the spirit and the letter of the IUA,” said Dr. Alkatiri. 

International law requires that Australia exercise restraint in respect of the exploitation of disputed maritime areas.

Prime Minister Alkatiri said Timor-Leste was working with Woodside, the operator of the Greater Sunrise Development, to finalize its development plan.  He regretted that the statements of the Australian Government had undermined the IUA, and indicated that this highlights the need for permanent boundaries.

“Only a permanent maritime boundary, established in accordance with international law, can deliver the stable investment environment which will serve the interests of petroleum investors and both our countries,” he said.

Timor-Leste has repeatedly indicated its willingness to meet monthly with Australia so that a permanent maritime boundary can be agreed expeditiously.  It is hoped that Australia will agree to this timetable at the meeting on maritime boundaries next month.

“If maritime boundaries were negotiated in accordance with international law, all of this field would likely be attributed to Timor-Leste. If Australia really believed in its legal case, it would not have withdrawn from the ICJ,” said Prime Minister Alkatiri.

Timor-Leste has no maritime boundaries, and securing them is an integral part of the new nation’s right to self determination. The resources that Timor Leste is entitled to under international law will be crucial in helping to rebuild the shattered nation, address mass poverty and achieve economic independence. Current interim arrangements for oil and gas developments will earn Timor-Leste US$4 billion over coming decades, which works out at just US$100 per capita per year under a prudent policy of saving half the revenue for future generations.

Under a permanent boundary Timor-Leste could expect to earn US$12 billion over coming decades, thereby giving the new nation its own resources with which to build a better future.

Contact: in Australia Paul Cleary 0431 055 584; Timor-Leste: Manuel de Lemos +670 723 4154
For more information see:

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
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