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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

1/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Access to oil wealth stymied by outdated, unfair treaties

Timor-Leste is an impoverished, undeveloped nation in the South Pacific. The situation there is ironic, as offshore is a mammoth undersea gas reserve worth at least $100 billion in U.S. dollars waiting to be tapped. Ownership of the reserve, however, remains gridlocked over treaties with the nearby nations of Indonesia and Australia. 

Cash-strapped and needy, the 95 percent Catholic country of Timor-Leste would welcome a massive boost in assets and income.

Cash-strapped and needy, the 95 percent Catholic country of Timor-Leste would welcome a massive boost in assets and income.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Timor-Leste, Australia, Indonesia, gas reserves, treaties, spying


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There have been numerous treaties over the last 42 years on the reserve between the three countries. So far, most of the agreements have favored Australia - but none of the treaties have been in accordance with international maritime boundaries and laws.

Australia, for some, has acted "mighty un-neighborly."  Australia's actions have been described as unethical and illegal.

The last treaty signed with Timor-Leste in 2006, known as CMATS, is now under dispute at the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration, the PCA.

Based on two earlier treaties, CMAT was inked with Indonesia's Suharto dictatorship in 1972 and 1989. Those treaties have since been tossed out as illegal. The treaties carved up the seabed between the two countries at a time when Indonesia was illegally occupying Timor-Leste.

Cash-strapped and needy, the 95 percent Catholic country of Timor-Leste would welcome a massive boost in assets and income.

Australia fears that if its 2006 treaty with Timor-Leste comes unstitched, then Indonesia to the north, now far wealthier and more powerful than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, may want to renegotiate its own maritime borders with Australia.

"Well, they didn't have to sign the treaty, no one forced them to," Alexander Downer, Australia's Foreign Minister from 1996-2007, now says of Timor-Leste.

Downer made the key decision, only two months before Timor-Leste's independence in 2002, to "withdraw" Australia from the maritime jurisdiction of the PCA.

As revenues are now coming in, Australia has agreed to hand over a larger share of them to Timor-Leste. Australia still refuses to budge on a 50-year clause that prevents Timor-Leste from challenging the boundaries established with Indonesia.

Long unhappy with CMATS, Timor-Leste has since announced allegations of spying by Australia during the treaty negotiations.

Timor-Leste claims that Downer authorized the installation of wiretapping equipment in the walls of the new cabinet room in the capital, Dili.

Timor-Leste took the case to the PCA last April. On December 3, more than a dozen officials from Australia's domestic spy agency raided offices and removed many high-level, evidential documents relating to the case.

The government claims this was done for national security reasons.

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