Author: timorsetl (page 1 of 5)

Jose Ramos-Horta: East Timor will survive as oil ends


Jose Ramos-Horta: East Timor will survive as oil ends
by Faisal Edroos                              6 December 2017

East Timor, one of the world’s poorest countries, could still be an economic success story despite reports its main oil and gas fields will run dry by 2022 and it will go bankrupt by 2027, its former leader says.

Devastated by years of foreign occupation, Southeast Asia’s youngest nation has relied heavily on its dwindling energy sector, which accounted for 78 percent of its 2017 state budget.

Speaking on the sidelines of International Civil Society Week in the Fijian capital, Suva, Jose Ramos-Horta – who served as prime minister from 2006-2007 and president from 2007-2012 – insists his country, once seen as a poster child for developing nations, can overcome its economic hurdles.

“East Timor is only 15 years old. If you saw what my country was like at the start of this century, you’d be shocked,” Ramos-Horta told Al Jazeera.

Indonesia annexed East Timor, which sits at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, in 1975 when long-time colonial power Portugal set it free.

Indonesian strongman Suharto’s military swept across the country in a lightning offensive, laying waste to entire villages with US-made weapons and equipment.

More than 100,000 East Timorese were killed during the 24-year occupation in what academics from the University of Oxford and Yale University have called genocide.

When Indonesia finally left in 1999 following a UN supervised independence referendum, more than 80 percent of the country’s infrastructure had been destroyed.

The country became fully independent in 2002 after a three-year period of UN administration.

“In 2002, we had 19 East Timorese doctors in the country,” the 67-year-old said. “Today we have close to 1,000.”

“We barely had electricity anywhere in the country, including the capital, Dili. Today, we have continuous electricity in 80 percent of the country. The remaining 20 percent uses alternative methods such as solar.”

Ramos-Horta, who was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for lobbying foreign leaders for Indonesia’s withdrawal, said his government planned for the depleting oil and gas reserves, with the country’s economic future no longer reliant on its offshore deposits.

“Unlike many other oil and gas producing nations, we immediately created a sovereign wealth fund. We started with £250m and now we have more than $16bn in the bank.

“At the time, the law said 90 percent of oil and gas revenues will go to buying US treasury bonds. Ten percent, we could use to diversify. Since we didn’t have a lot of experience in the international market we decided to invest everything in US treasury bonds.

“When the 2008 financial crisis struck, better economies than ours, countries with a stronger international standing like Singapore and Norway, lost tens of billions. East Timor didn’t lose a cent.”

Speaking to the media in 2008, the US-educated politician quipped East Timor could become the “next Dubai”.

But tensions have simmered in the nascent democracy over income inequality and high unemployment.

According to the World Bank, 41 percent of East Timor’s 1.2 million people live on less than $0.88 per day.

The current government, led by Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo, faces increasing pressure to generate new jobs with 60 percent of its population aged under 25.

The country’s main oil and gas field, the ConocoPhillips-operated Bayu-Undan project, provided about $20bn to the economy over the past 10 years, but it is expected to cease production between by 2022.

“We changed our laws in 2009 to allow bigger changes to our economic portfolio. We now have more than 1,000 investments around the world,” Ramos-Horta said.

“We have hundreds of people studying for their masters in countries abroad. At the same time, we are investing wisely. We are living off these investments.

“When I said Dubai I was daydreaming. Forget Dubai. I would be happy if East Timor could reach the heights of Fiji.”

However, researchers at the Dili-based think-tank La’o Hamutuk said unless new sources of income are found, the country could go bankrupt as early as 2027.

La’o Hamutuk warned East Timor’s parliament last year the 2017 budget of $1.39bn would require a withdrawal of more than $1bn from the petroleum fund. With the government planning to take out almost four times the estimated income every year between 2018 and 2021, the fund’s balance will fall by at least $3bn, to $13bn.

The think-tank urged the government to reassess several mega-projects, questioning their “benefits for the majority of Timorese people”.

“These projects will displace local communities, use up valuable agricultural land, destroy farmers’ livelihoods and pollute the environment. Meanwhile, the money spent in them comes from a finite total, and is no longer available for necessary projects, sustainable economic development, equitable projects, and social services for everyone,” it said.

Aside from oil, agriculture is a key component of the economy, providing subsistence to about 80 percent of the population.

The most significant commodity export is coffee, which accounted for $30m of annual exports in 2016.

“We could do much better,” Ramos-Horta said when pressed about the future of East Timor’s fledgling economy. “But we can’t do miracles.”

Government and opposition games

http://www.smh.com.au/world/east-timors-opposition-threaten-newly-swornin-minority-government-20171007-gyw8cv.htmlEXCLUSIVE
OCTOBER 7 2017

East Timor’s opposition threaten newly sworn-in minority government

 

East Timor’s three opposition parties say they are ready to form a parliamentary majority alliance to take office if programs of a newly sworn-in minority government fail to gain support, as political tensions rise again in Asia’s newest democracy.

The two-party government led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri holds only 30 seats in the 65-seat parliament, five less than the opposition parties, giving the government a tenuous hold on to power.

Politicians from the opposition National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) headed East Timor’s powerbroker Xanana Gusmao are among 35 MPs who have sent a letter to the country’s president Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres saying they are “willing to present an alternative government solution” that ensures “peace, stability and development.”

The letter signed also by MPs from the youth dominated Khunto party and the Popular Liberation Party (PLP), headed by former president Tuar Matan Ruak, criticised Mr Guterres for annointing a minority government “instead of taking steps to seek a solution that would guarantee a majority government.”

In September when he took office, Mr Alkatiri promised MPs from his Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) and the small Democratic Party would bring political stability to the half-island nation that has seen bouts of political turbulence in the past.

But behind-the-scene tensions could come to a head as early as this week when the government presents its program to parliament.

Under the country’s constitution the president is required to test whether another party can muster a majority if the government’s program is rejected twice.

Michael Leach, an expert on East Timor from Swinburne University of Technology, said that while the development is clearly a threat to the minority government it is not clear that an alternative majority alliance is being proposed.

He said there are as yet no signs that Mr Gusmao and Ruak – neither of whom have taken seats in parliament – have reconciled political differences.

Professor Leach said Mr Gusmao’s party MPs may have signed the letter to pressure the government to “stick to the policy settings” of the previous government that included building big spending mega-projects, such as an industrial complex on the country’s remote southern coast.

Professor Leach said what is less easy to understand is why Mr Ruak’s PLP, which explicitly ran against the policies of the former government, would support the letter.

“It may be that they see a general advantage in parliament flexing its muscles and in questioning the action of the president, who is also from Fretilin,” he said.

“Certainly the lack of active parliamentary oversight of the last government was a problem which will not occur in this term.”

Mr Gusmao, the country’s hero of independence and former president and prime minister who continues to wield enormous power, was out of East Timor when the letter was sent.

But analysts say his party MPs would not have signed it without his support.

Mr Gusmao led his country’s delegation that in September reached a landmark agreement with Australia on developing billions of dollars of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea that ended years of disagreement.

Details of the agreement that defines maritime boundaries as well as sharing arrangements for the US$50 billion Greater Sunrise oil and gas field are expected to be made public later in October.

Timor Leste heads for minority government

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/timor-leste-minority-government

The Interpreter

Timor Leste heads for minority government

Timor Leste’s new Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri (Photo: Dimas Ardian/Getty Images)
Michael Leach

15 September 2017
16:08 AEDT

Almost two months since the 22 July election, a new government will be sworn in today in Dili. Fretilin, with 23 seats in parliament, has joined with Democratic Party (PD) which has seven representatives, giving them 30 seats in the 65-seat house. As recently as Wednesday* a majority government was expected until the five MPs from the youth-focused party Khunto withdrew at the last minute, surprising many in Dili by not attending the agreement signing ceremony. It appears Khunto made demands for ministries in excess of its size, which Fretilin would not meet as they compromised the principle of proportionality that had been agreed between the three parties.

While Khunto now appears to be out of the picture, the coalition signing ceremony between Fretilin and PD proceeded on Wednesday, and late on Thursday President Francisco ‘Lu Olo’ Guterres appointed Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri the new Prime Minister of Timor-Leste. The new government will be sworn in late today after the first formal session of the new parliament. It will include ministers from Fretilin and PD, and will also see with some independents appointed, including Jose Ramos-Horta, who will be a Minister of State with an additional role as advisor on national security. Prime Minister Alkatiri will also be the Minister of Development and Infrastructure, and the outgoing Prime Minister Rui Araujo will become Minister of Health. New faces in the ministry include the former rector of the national university Aurelio Guterres, who becomes Foreign minister. Senior PD figures will take central roles in the presidency of the Council of Ministers, and in Commerce and Industry, among others. It is understood the new PM has decided which portfolios will be allocated to each party. Only twelve of 30 ministerial and vice-ministerial positions will be sworn in today.

The new Fretilin-led minority government formalises a shift from the previous government (which was based on an informal power-sharing agreement between the two largest parties, CNRT and Fretilin) and the end of a decade of governments led by the CNRT chief and former resistance leader Xanana Gusmão. After narrowly losing the July election, CNRT has said its 22 MPs would serve in opposition, though it would support the government on key votes such as the budget.

It is understood CNRT will in effect offer the new government ‘incidencia parlamentar’, a Portuguese term for confidence-and-supply arrangements with parties that do not formally join the government. For his part, the President consulted opposition parties and has stated he is satisfied the new government will have adequate support on confidence, the government program, and budget, despite its minority status.

Perhaps most interestingly, while this leaves the CNRT and the immediate ex-President Taur Matan Ruak’s Popular Liberation Party (PLP) formally in opposition, Fretilin’s vision of a ‘government of grand inclusion’ will see certain individuals associated with both parties offered ministries. The practice of ‘loaning’ individuals from the opposition parties to serve in government started with the previous government. Whether these offers are accepted remains to be seen, but the offers will be significant in themselves. Though the character of the government has changed, some elements of informal power-sharing appear to continue. The new Minister of Finance, Rui Gomes, for example, was a Chief of Staff to former President Ruak and believed to be close to the PLP, though he has been appointed in a personal capacity.

The formation of government has been slow. Until early last week, it appeared Fretilin would form a parliamentary coalition with the PLP, which ran on a platform of greater government transparency and increased attention to basic development indicators rather than the megaprojects favoured by the outgoing government. Negotiations with PLP were, however, unduly protracted, and faltered over the issue of who would serve as President of Parliament (approximating the Speaker).

In the end, Fretilin’s candidate for President of Parliament, Aniceto Guterres, won narrowly by 33 votes to 32, indicating that three members of PD or Khunto voted for the CNRT’s Aderito da Costa. This outcome suggests the new parliament may be a lively one, providing more surprises and greater accountability over the executive than the previous, something Dili’s civil society has been calling for.

How stable will minority government be?

Though many in Dili’s active social media are uncertain about the constitutional implications of minority government, the constitution provides that the ‘most-voted’ party or the coalition of parties with a majority may nominate the PM, precisely because the latter is not always possible. For the government’s minority status to trigger a change of government, its formal program would have to be rejected by parliament twice. Given the CNRT offer of ‘incidencia parlamentar’, and similar assurances from PLP and Khunto, there seems little chance the Fretilin-PD government program will not pass. While the potential for no-confidence votes remains inherent to minority status, there is presently no appetite for alternate coalitions among the non-government parties, with relations between CNRT and PLP perhaps the least amicable of any combination. The smaller parties are also averse to the prospect of early elections as they lack campaign funds, though the constitution prohibits another election for at least six months in any case. With these factors and Fretilin’s efforts at inclusion, the prospects for stable minority government seem sound, at least in the short to mid-term.

Fretilin envisages this as a different model of democracy, one that favours Timorese-style inclusion over Western-style conflict, and builds on the consensus model of the previous government. For its part, PLP seems set on a more conventional idea of opposition, and many in Dili will welcome a strong opposition voice – something Timor-Leste lacked under the power-sharing arrangement of the last government. In a move likely to be welcomed by civil society, Aniceto Guterres has promised a new anti-corruption law. There is also pressure from civil society to reduce the excessive infrastructure spending to make Timor-Leste’s sovereign wealth fund more sustainable, and to diversity the economy to reduce oil and gas dependence.

Despite the chequered path to forming government, Mari Alkatiri’s return to the prime ministership has proved largely uncontroversial. None of the five parties in parliament has opposed his candidacy, with the prevailing view that the Prime Minister should be the person with full authority in the most-voted party. Even the powerful Catholic Church – a major opponent of the first Fretilin government – has expressed support. The obvious alternative candidate was the current occupant, Fretilin’s Rui Araujo, installed with CNRT’s support in 2015.

With Timor-Leste’s political-military crisis only 11 years in the past, Alkatiri’s ascension to PM is a sign not only of Fretilin’s recent campaign success, but also of how consensus-style politics have reduced the temperature of conflict within Timor-Leste’s political elite.

The ‘double turnover’ milestone

The 2017 election cycle represents a turning point for Timor-Leste in several respects. Though technically the seventh government since 2002, and the fourth parliament, it is only the second change in government leadership, with the other being the 2007 shift from Fretilin majority government to a CNRT-led coalition. It therefore represents the ‘double turnover’ moment since independence, in which the fundamental composition of the government changes for the second time. This is considered a key measure of democratic consolidation.

The new parties to emerge also suggest shifting political values in East Timorese society. The PLP appealed to younger voters more concerned with transparency and accountability, and less with the value of political stability favoured by older voters who witnessed the great upheavals of Timorese history. Part of the electorate also turned against megaproject-style developments in favour of basic development indicators. For its part, Khunto appealed directly to unemployed youth. Perhaps most importantly, the 2017 elections suggest that while participation in the independence struggle remains a powerful factor in political legitimacy, it does not compel new voters in the same way. For this group, issues like youth unemployment are more important.

Perhaps the key lesson of 2017 elections is that Fretilin appeared to detect this shift sooner than the CNRT. Where the CNRT campaign once again highlighted Gusmão’s historical leadership of the resistance, Fretilin ran a disciplined campaign which instead emphasised development policy, and played to its leader’s strengths. The PLP made its own critique of Timor-Leste’s economic direction and was also led by a major resistance figure in Ruak, which saw it capture some of the non-Fretilin vote from CNRT. Finally, while Gusmão himself remains popular, other figures recently installed in the CNRT leadership team proved far less so.

Despite this week’s surprises, the 2017 election cycle represents a substantial political victory for Fretilin, which now holds both the Presidency and Prime Ministership. Nonetheless, there are plural sources of power in the parliament, which will keep the new government more accountable than the old. Importantly too, Xanana Gusmão remains a senior figure in East Timorese politics, and Fretilin remains keen to have him inside the tent. The incoming government was at pains to emphasise support for Gusmão’s continuing leadership of the maritime-boundaries negotiating team, and did not intercede in the recent negotiations in Copenhagen. The deal announced last week in the maritime boundary dispute with Australia appears to provide for a median ‘east-west’ boundary in the Timor Sea, and substantially increased revenue for Timor-Leste from the untapped Greater Sunrise, though it falls short of full East Timorese control over that field. If these outcomes are confirmed next month, it will represent a substantial (though not complete) win for Timor-Leste. Last Monday the East Timorese negotiating team, led by Xanana Gusmão, arrived home to considerable public fanfare. Gusmão may also be offered Chief of a new Tasi Mane development authority, the ambitious south coast development project sponsored by the former government, which will likely continue in scaled-back form.

Policy priorities for the new government

In terms of policy, a Fretilin-led coalition should see increases in annual spending on basic development indicators like health, education and agriculture, reducing the emphasis on megaproject-led development, though the shift may not be as profound as a coalition with the PLP might have produced. While Fretilin will continue major infrastructure programs such as the Special Economic Zones for Social Market Economy in the exclave of Oecusse, the sheer scale of contract spending is likely to reduce. This will be a difficult transition and will see the political economy of Timor-Leste alter in ways that are beneficial for economic sustainability, but potentially challenging for political stability. An inclusive approach to governance will aid the transition.

Mari Alkatiri has said the incoming government will be characterised by political inclusion, by efforts to reduce uneven development between city and rural areas, and by the fight against corruption. Some have expressed concerns over political stability without the powerful combination of Fretilin and Gusmão. Yet a change in government may instead improve popular faith in institutions, tarnished by recent protests against the exorbitant government car fleet and the life pension scheme for MPs. While de facto power-sharing between the two major parties brought a type of political stability, a transition of power that is respected by all parties, and overseen by an active parliamentary opposition, might represent the more durable institutional form. How former leaders are accommodated in the new arrangements may prove the most interesting question, and may also be instrumental to the stability of the minority government.

*Editor’s note: This post updates an earlier version published before Khunto withdrew.


Bridging the Timor Gap

Bridging the Timor Gap

Michael Leach

Monday 4 September 2017

A surprise agreement in the Timor Sea boundary dispute vindicates Timor-Leste’s strategy

http://insidestory.org.au/bridging-the-timor-gap/

In a major joint announcement on Saturday, Timor-Leste and Australia declared they had reached an agreement on “central aspects” of a maritime boundary determination. Since April last year, the two countries have been involved in a Compulsory Conciliation Process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, initiated by Timor-Leste.

While full details remain confidential until a further announcement next month, the agreement will create permanent maritime boundaries and revised resource-sharing arrangements in the yet-to-be-developed Greater Sunrise oil and gas field. This is a major step forward for the resolution of the long-running dispute between two neighbours.

Most importantly, it seems highly probable that Timor-Leste has secured a median-line boundary in the Timor Gap, creating a permanent maritime boundary for the first time. While many in Australian foreign policy circles have assumed that Australia would limit its negotiations to revenue sharing, and wouldn’t countenance permanent maritime boundaries or depart from its older claim for the “natural prolongation” continental shelf boundary, the ground appears to have shifted.

If this proves to be the case, it will represent a major victory for the small nation and a clear endorsement of the UNCLOS Compulsory Conciliation process. A median-line boundary will place 100 per cent of the present Joint Petroleum Development Area in Timor-Leste’s sovereign waters, where current treaties divide the revenue from existing fields, such as Bayu-Undan, 90–10 in its favour. This is an important outcome for Timor-Leste’s sovereignty, and will be hailed as a major victory in Dili, but it’s important to remember that these fields are nearing the end of their life.

Far more financially significant is the as-yet-untapped Greater Sunrise field, worth in excess of $40 billion. While Timor-Leste has respectable legal opinion suggesting that the entire Greater Sunrise field could be in its maritime waters under UNCLOS, this was always a trickier proposition, as the field straddles the eastern lateral (or side) boundary of the Joint Petroleum Development Area. Unlike the relatively straightforward and media-friendly median-line principles governing the east–west boundary, the north–south laterals involve far more complex technical considerations, with competing options for baselines and offsets. While Timor-Leste was clearly entitled to more of Greater Sunrise than current treaties allowed for, the lateral boundaries question could have opened up a minefield of differing interpretations.

Importantly, shifting the laterals might also involve renegotiating aspects of the previously settled 1972 Australia–Indonesia boundary, an outcome Australia has sought to avoid at all costs. Despite Timor-Leste’s opening bargaining position, therefore, compromise in this area was always a strong possibility, in favour of a bigger win represented by a median-line boundary and increased upstream revenues. Such revenues from Greater Sunrise will be especially critical to Timor-Leste’s future.

Earlier treaties placed 20 per cent of Greater Sunrise in the Joint Petroleum Development Area, giving Timor-Leste just 18 per cent of future revenues under the 90–10 split. The subsequent and now defunct Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, or CMATS, increased Timor-Leste’s share to 50 per cent, but delayed permanent maritime boundary negotiations for fifty years. Though Timor-Leste acceded to CMATS, it had no option for an adjudicated settlement as Australia had withdrawn from international dispute resolution jurisdictions, putting the issue firmly in the realm of power politics.

With the 2006 treaty process marred by damaging spying allegations against Australia, Timor-Leste opted for the final avenue open to it: a compulsory (but non-binding) conciliation process, which has never previously been employed under the UNCLOS treaty. In January this year, the country announced it would terminate CMATS, and Australia agreed not to challenge that move. It was a win for Timor-Leste, but it was also a high-stakes gamble, reverting the young state’s guaranteed share of Greater Sunrise revenues to 20 per cent pending a new negotiation.

The gamble appears to have paid off. It is highly likely that the renegotiated agreement will see a substantial increase in Timor-Leste’s share of the future Greater Sunrise revenues from the 50–50 offered under CMATS, while allowing for joint development of the field under a special regime for Greater Sunrise. The final agreement will also determine the contested issue of where the pipeline from Greater Sunrise will land for downstream processing — in Australia or Timor-Leste — or whether it will be a floating platform, as preferred by the commercial partner Woodside.

From Australia’s perspective, the fact the agreement appears to retain the current “trilateral” endpoint markers of the Timor Gap will also be considered a win, as it means the 1972 boundary with Indonesia will not need to be revisited. This was Australia’s baseline position. While some critics might see the outcome as a retreat from Timor-Leste’s opening gambit, no one should doubt the strength of Australia’s earlier resolve to delay maritime negotiations indefinitely or, failing that, to stick to its longstanding continental shelf claims. Australia was defending the existing arrangements as recently as last year, and even now many in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade remain convinced of the merits of that position. The agreement therefore represents a major shift for Australia. Labor’s change of policy in early 2016 clearly had an impact behind the scenes, shifting a previously bipartisan consensus. Recent pressure from the United States for a resolution of the maritime boundary dispute, with the South China Sea controversy in the background, provided further incentive for Canberra to reach an agreement.

The resolution of this long-running dispute opens the way for a major improvement in relations between the two neighbours, which have been at a low point in recent years. As Kim McGrath’s timely new book, Crossing the Line: Australia’s Secret History in the Timor Sea, shows, Australia’s role in the Timor Gap has been a sorry one since the 1960s, when Australian authorities issued exploration permits north of the median line in the 1960s with no clear legal basis — an act that was challenged by the colonial power, Portugal, but later accepted by Indonesia in return for concessions on East Timorese self-determination and support for Indonesia’s controversial “archipelagic principle.” As McGrath makes clear, our foreign policy was unduly determined by the desire to close the Timor Gap along the same favourable lines determined in 1972 with Indonesia.

Saturday’s outcome is a major achievement for the East Timorese negotiating team, led by former PM Xanana Gusmão and minister of state Agio Pereira, backed by the Maritime Boundary Office and its legal team. While Fretilin narrowly won the 22 July election, and will lead a new cross-party government, it is understood that there has been no interference from the incoming government, which has been at pains to respect Gusmão’s stewardship of the well-advanced process.

The maritime frontiers strategy was firmly in place before the election, with September’s session in Copenhagen always likely to be the make or break. In the end, the breakthrough became evident when Gusmão finally revealed the sort of outcomes acceptable to Timor-Leste. The Conciliation Commission itself is to be congratulated on producing a workable compromise from potentially heated negotiations.

While many following the issue will reserve judgement until the final parameters of the deal are known, the East Timorese maritime boundary team returns to Dili today, no doubt to a substantial popular welcome. A new government is expected to be announced early this week and formed later in the month, with a few major surprises likely. •

Michael Leach is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Swinburne University of Technology.

Australian governments’ ruthless betrayal of East Timor

https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/sites/default/files/styles/book_large/public/9781925435740_FC_0.jpg?itok=fuhAeGvL

www.blackincbooks.com

Early humans and a super volcano explosion

Timor-Leste Prepares for New Government and Opportunities for Tourist Economy

U.S. Congress supports Timor-Leste’s right to a fair maritime boundary with Australia

U.S. Congress supports Timor-Leste’s right to a fair maritime boundary with Australia
August 1, 2017 – The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) lauded the U.S. House of Representatives for urging a fair resolution to the maritime boundary dispute between Australia and Timor-Leste.

In July, the House noted that a fair and peaceful resolution to the dispute would set a positive example for the resolution of other maritime disputes in the region. (see text below)

Australia is now on notice that its key ally wants a fair conclusion to the talks on the maritime boundary.
The House directed the Secretary of Defense with the Secretary of State to brief the House Committee on Armed Services “on the potential security benefits that may result from the Australia-Timor-Leste conciliation process and how a peaceful resolution to the dispute might affect overall U.S. defense and security interests in the region.”

“We believe that a permanent boundary is Timor-Leste’s sovereign right and that the boundary should respect current practice under international law,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.

“We welcome the U.S. House of Representatives attention to this important issue. Australia is now on notice that its key ally wants a fair conclusion to the talks on the maritime boundary,” Miller added.

Timor-Leste and Australia are currently participating in ” conciliation,.” a form of non-binding mediation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For the last quarter century ETAN has urged the U.S. and Australian governments, the United Nations and others to respect the sovereign rights of the East Timorese people to define the terrestrial and maritime limits of their territory.

The language concerning the maritime boundary dispute was included in the report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810), an annual policy-setting bill. The full bill passed the House on July 14, 2017. The statement about Timor-Leste was introduced by Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.
From https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-115hrpt200/pdf/CRPT-115hrpt200.pdf

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES      115TH CONGRESS 1st Session REPORT 115–200

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018 REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON H.R. 2810 together with ADDITIONAL VIEWS [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office] p. 210

Timor Sea Maritime Developments

The committee recognizes the strategic importance of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and has a strong interest in ensuring processes to resolve territorial and maritime disputes are done fairly and peacefully in accordance with international law. Given the growing and complex regional maritime security issues in the Pacific, the committee believes that negotiations between Australia and TimorLeste to establish permanent maritime boundaries sends a positive signal to other states in the region regarding adherence to a rules-based international order. A mutually agreed upon resolution could serve as an example for resolving other disputes peacefully and have benefits to cooperative maritime efforts in the region. The committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services, not later than September 30, 2017, on the potential security benefits that may result from the Australia-Timor Leste conciliation process and how a peaceful resolution to the dispute might affect overall U.S. defense and security interests in the region.

 

http://etan.org/news/2017/08house.htm

 

 

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