Maritime Treaty Opens Up Gas Field For Shell Joint Venture

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Indonesian President Joko Wikodo walk together in Australia

In 1989, when East Timor was still part of Indonesia, the governments of Australia and Indonesia signed what became known as the Timor Gap Treaty, which allowed both countries to share in the wealth of the Timor Gap equally.

Revenue will be shared 70/30 in Timor-Leste's favour if the field is developed by a pipeline to Timor-Leste, or 80/20 in Timor-Leste's favour if the field is developed by a pipeline to Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (front, R) and Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira (front, L), Timor-Leste minister in the office of the prime minister for the delimitation of borders, sign a maritime boundaries treaty at the United Nations headquarters in New York, March 6, 2018.

The two sides and the Sunrise joint venture have not yet agreed on a way to develop Greater Sunrise. For more than ten years the apportioning of the fields' resources has been a strongly contested issue between Australia and Timor-Leste.

Certain petroleum exploration permits in Australian jurisdiction will also come under Timor-Leste control either partly or wholly.

The State Department noted in a statement Tuesday that the treaty was reached in "the first-ever conciliation process under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention".

The nations' "vision and determination" in settling on a deal has received the admiration of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Australia and Timor-Leste on Tuesday signed a maritime boundaries treaty under the auspices of the United Nations.

"To see this ceremony is like the complement of that day, and to be here today is an enormous privilege and fills my heart with joy".

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

Timorese minister Agio Pereira said his country was reluctant to be the test case in an unproven procedure.

Timor-Leste's Minister Agio Pereira said: "Thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of both countries to this conciliation process, we have arrived at an agreement on maritime boundaries that is equitable, and consistent with global law".

After signing the treaty during a United Nations ceremony, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that East Timor stood to gain "substantial benefits" from the deal.

Bishop said an worldwide rules-based order is fundamental to collective security and prosperity. Ms Bishop said: "This treaty represents the importance of rules and the benefits of all states abiding by the rules".

While details of the revenue-sharing arrangement have not been finalized, Bishop said East Timor would receive the lion's share of revenue - 70 or 80 percent - from the development of Greater Sunrise.

On Tuesday, Jos Ramos Horta, a former president and prime minister of Timor-Leste, told the Guardian the development of Greater Sunrise was "an absolute necessity for the future wellbeing of this country".

The agreement was doubly historic because it also marked the successful conclusion of the first-ever negotiations to settle maritime differences under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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