REPÚBLICA DEMOCRÁTICA DE TIMOR-LESTE
31 March 2004
TIMOR-LESTE PROTESTS UNLAWFUL EXPLOITATION OF ITS RESOURCES
The Australian Government’s release for auction this week of further oil and gas exploration acreage in the Timor Sea violates international law and is contrary to the Greater Sunrise unitisation agreement approved on Monday by the Australian Parliament, said Timor-Leste (East Timor) Prime Minister Dr Mari Alkatiri.
On Monday, the Australian Government announced the release of exploration acreage which is about twice as close to Timor-Leste as it is to Australia, and on Timor-Leste’s side of the median line between the two countries.
On the same day, the Australian Parliament approved a bill for the development of the Greater Sunrise field that explicitly states that part of the field lies in an area claimed by both countries. According to the Greater Sunrise agreement and international law generally, Australia should refrain from unilateral exploitation in disputed areas.
One of lots offered for auction, NT04-1, is adjacent to the Greater Sunrise field, and is twice as close to Timor-Leste. A second block, AC04-1, located in the western part of the Timor Sea, is in an area claimed by Timor-Leste and is also twice as close to Timor-Leste (see shaded areas on map).
The announcement of this auction follows the awarding of an exploration license by the Australian Government in February this year, and another in April last year, in the disputed area. Australia has also derived more than US$1.5 billion in tax revenue from the Laminaria-Corallina fields which are in a disputed area in the western part of the Timor Sea, and are also much closer to Timor-Leste.
Companies considering bidding for these blocks should be aware of the potential risks of investing in disputed territory as Timor-Leste will take all lawful steps to prevent unlawful exploration and exploitation of resources within its maritime zone.
Timor-Leste has proposed monthly meetings aimed at resolving this dispute with Australia expeditiously. Australia has said it only has resources to meet twice a year, even though it is one of the richest countries in the world and Timor-Leste is one of the poorest.
“While stalling on negotiations, Australia is issuing new licenses in disputed areas near the Greater Sunrise field, and is continuing to derive revenues from other disputed parts of the Timor Sea”, said Dr. Alkatiri. “International law requires that Australia exercise restraint in disputed maritime areas,” he added.
“Australia’s unilateral exploitation of our resources in the Timor Sea is inconsistent with the spirit and the letter of the Greater Sunrise International Unitisation Agreement,” said Dr. Alkatiri.
The IUA clearly acknowledges Timor-Leste’s rights in the area adjacent to Greater Sunrise that is outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area. It states that “Timor-Leste and Australia have, at the date of this agreement, made maritime claims, and not yet delimited their boundaries, including in an area of the Timor Sea where Greater Sunrise lies”.
Prime Minister Alkatiri said Australia’s unilateral actions highlighted the need for permanent boundaries in the Timor Sea.
“Only a permanent maritime boundary can deliver the stable investment environment which will serve the interests of petroleum investors and both our countries. A permanent boundary is also an integral part of Timor-Leste’s right to self-determination and will end the illegal occupation of its territory. As long as Australia continues to illegally occupy this area of the Timor Sea, it is undermining our territorial integrity,” he said.
Timor-Leste has no maritime boundaries, and the resources it is entitled to under international law will be crucial in helping to rebuild the shattered nation, address mass poverty and achieve economic independence.
Contact: Paul Cleary +670 723 4151; Manuel Mendonca +670 723 4155
For more information see: www.timorseaoffice.gov.tp