Indonesia eyes change to maritime treaty after Timor-Australia deal

East Timor expert Michael Leach talks to The World's Beverley O'Connor about Australia's East Timor deal

"Both countries negotiated in good faith in order to achieve a treaty that Timor Leste, Australia and the [Conciliation] Commission believe is fair, balanced and consistent with global law", the statement said.

Australia and Timor-Leste on Tuesday signed a historic maritime boundary treaty under the auspices of the United Nations, ending a decade-long maritime dispute and recognizing a permanent border between them.

The treaty marks the conclusion of a conflict between Australia and East Timor that went on for ten years about rights over oil and gas reserves in the sea.

The dispute had prevented the development of the Greater Sunrise gas fields in the region, which are owned by a joint venture which includes Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

However, the countries could not come to an agreement on how to develop the field, and will continue negotiations.

Signed by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Timor-Leste Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for the Delimitation of Borders, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira, at the UN headquarters in NY in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the pact marks the successful conclusion of the first recourse to conciliation proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

East Timor's chief negotiator, former president Xanana Gusmao, has accused Australia of colluding with resource companies to ensure the resources are piped south to Darwin instead of north to East Timor.

Timor-Leste's chief negotiator Xanana Gusmao said: "History is made today as Timor-Leste signs a treaty on permanent maritime boundaries that establishes, for the first time, a fair border between our two countries, based on global law".

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The statement called the treaty "a testament to the efficacy and importance of resolving disputes peacefully and in accordance with global law".

"The agreement being signed today is a further contribution to establishing legal certainty in the world's ocean, an essential condition for a stable relationship, peace and security", he said.

Pereira, calling the treaty "equatable, forward-looking", said it will institute certainty in worldwide investment and economic development for Timor Leste. "With the signing of this treaty today, we write a new chapter in the friendship between our two countries".

Before a crowd of cameras, diplomats and officials, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and East Timor minister Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira signed two copies of the treaty Tuesday night.

"Australia believes the global rules-based order is fundamental to our collective security and prosperity", Bishop said. In particular, our treaty reflects the importance of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

Timor-Leste will also receive a higher share of the revenue from the gas fields, taking between 70 and 80% depending on whether the gas is piped first to Timor-Leste or Australia, Reuters reported.

Bishop noted each country recommended two members of the commission and all "played an objective, forthright and rigorously independent role".

In the meanwhile, the United States has also congratulated the governments of Australia and Timor-Leste for concluding a maritime boundary treaty under the first-ever conciliation process under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

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