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A "fair go" for East Timor? Sharing the resources of the Timor Sea.


On 16 November 2004 the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNMISET) for what was set to be a "final" six month period. This action was taken on the recommendation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who argued that East Timor had yet to achieve "a critical threshold of self-sufficiency" as a consequence of "weak and fragile" levels of public administration. (1) Subsequently, in March 2005, the Secretary-General argued that the "premature termination" of the UN mission could have a negative impact on East Timor's security and stability and therefore urged the Security Council to renew its mandate, albeit in a scaled-back form, for up to 12 months to 20 May 2006 (UN 2005, p. 16). Despite initial misgivings by some States, notably Australia and the United States, on 28 April 2005 the UN Security Council voted unanimously to authorize the establishment of a one-year follow-on "special political mission" in East Timor to 20 May 2006. (2)

The Security Council debate on the Secretary-General's report coincided with a fresh round of sensitive maritime boundary negotiations over the resource-rich Timor Sea lying between them in March 2005, following a breakdown in dialogue at the end of 2004. Given Australia's leading role in the 1999 intervention in East Timor, which facilitated independence in 2002, the close personal and political relationships that were forged as a result, and Australia's continuing and substantial development aid to its "new" neighbour, it might be thought that maritime boundary delimitation negotiations would be smooth. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case and the issue became the key point of contention between the two states. A breakthrough does now appear to have been achieved after further negotiations concluding in May 2005.

Dili's failure to resolve its dispute with Canberra put the development of the region's energy resources at risk, and with it, East Timor's access to badly needed revenues. At stake are oil and gas reserves with an estimated value of US$30bn (A$38bn) (3) and it is thus difficult to overstate the critical importance to East Timor of the successful conclusion of these negotiations--a "matter of life and death" for East Timor, according to Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri (Oxfam 2004). Articulating his fledgling country's fears, East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao has gone on record to state that his country could not afford another protracted struggle, this time with Australia over oil revenues rather than Indonesia over independence, as there was a real danger that "we will end up being just one more failed state, one more country for whom independence proved to be just a dream" (Harding 2004).

The Challenges Facing East Timor

Following 24 years of Indonesian occupation and resistance that is estimated to have cost up to 250,000 lives, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in August 1999 (Oxfam 2004). (4) During the ensuing turmoil, which included an orchestrated campaign of violence and destruction on the part of pro-Indonesian and anti-independence armed militias, over 75 per cent of the population were displaced and an estimated 70 per cent of East Timor's physical infrastructure was damaged or destroyed (CIA 2005 and World Bank 2004). Indeed, economic production is estimated to have dropped by a staggering 49 per cent in 1999 (World Bank 2004). These events prompted intervention on the part of an Australian-led multinational military force, the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), deployed under UN auspices from September 1999, which put an end to the conflict and established an interim international administration, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). The UN progressively transferred government authority to East Timorese personnel and on 20 May 2002 East Timor gained its independence as the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste.

Despite what Kofi Annan (United Nations 2005, p. 16) has hailed as the "truly remarkable" progress made by the Timorese people in building the world's newest state, coupled with substantial international development aid allied to laudably robust and prudent financial planning and management (for example, the Dili government maintains a "no borrowing" policy), East Timor nevertheless faces daunting challenges and remains heavily dependent on international aid (ADB 2004a; Oxfam 2004). Over 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, over half the population remain illiterate while over one in ten children die before they reach the age of five (Harding 2004; Oxfam 2004). The East Timorese economy contracted by around 3 per cent in 2003 (ADB 2004a) in large part as a consequence of the further scaling down in the international presence from a peak of around 9,000 peacekeeping troops and observers plus 1,600 police personnel in 2001 to UNMISET's contingent of around 600 civilian and military personnel. (5) The UN presence is set to be reduced still further as the emphasis shifts from peacekeeping to peacebuilding activities. As a result, East Timor is facing a major budget deficit of around US$30m over the next four years.

The economic downturn has also stemmed from crop damage resulting from a delayed rainy season in 2002 and then substantial flood damage in 2003 and the slow execution and winding down of reconstruction projects. The interrelated tasks of rebuilding infrastructure, institutions and meeting the needs of a rapidly growing population--where unemployment is running at least 20 per cent and up to 40 per cent in urban areas and among those aged between 15 and 24--remain intimidating (ADB 2004a).

Internally, dissatisfaction with the pace of economic change and widespread unemployment has led to disenchantment with standards of living. This manifested itself most clearly in the form of civil unrest in Dili in December 2002 when Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's house and two other houses belonging to his family were burnt down (Hordern 2003, pp. 3-4; Oxfam 2004).

The newly formed Timor-Leste Defence Force numbers 1,400 and is being trained with Australian and British assistance. These partners have also helped to establish the 200-strong National Police of Timor Leste, which has taken over all policing functions from the UN Police (ADB 2004a). Additionally, Malaysia is providing training and logistical support in the formation of a rapid-reaction unit (Ramos-Horta 2004). Thus, while the presence of UN forces has generally ensured internal and particularly external security for East Timor, it remains to be seen whether East Timor's untested forces will be able to effectively guarantee security in the face of the looming security vacuum which the scheduled departure of the UN mission represents.

This is of particular concern in light of incursions across the border from Indonesian west Timor on the part of former pro-Indonesian militia members, as experienced in January 2003 and reported in early 2005 (Hordern 2003, p. 3: United Nations 2005, p. 2). Indeed, in his February 2005 report, the UN Secretary-General observed that the current Tactical Coordination Line remains "porous" and subject to cross-border smuggling and reported illegal crossings by alleged ex-militia groups from west Timor (UN 2005, pp. 2-3).

Such incidents may escalate once the last UN troops leave or if the internal security situation in East Timor deteriorates, encouraging opportunistic cross-border attacks and a breakdown in law and order. This threat is exacerbated by the fact that, despite lengthy negotiations, no final agreement on the 125km boundary dividing the island has been reached, although a provisional accord was signed on the margins of the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Jakarta on 30 June 2004. (6) Although the two sides signed a preliminary agreement on border demarcation on 8 April 2005 covering 96 per cent of the boundary line by length, the most contentious territorial disputes along the boundary have vet to be addressed. (7) An added complication in this context is the existence of East Timor's Oecnssi enclave on the north coast of west Timor. This physically separate enclave has a 100km boundary with Indonesia that surrounds Oecussi on three sides (Deeley 2001) (see map). (8)


Kofi Annan also highlighted the fact that as yet East Timor's Border Patrol Unit "lacks sufficient capacity to manage border affairs and interact with the Indonesian national army on its own" (UN 2005, p. 15). Similarly, whilst East Timor's Border Police Unit has reached its full strength of 300 personnel and is now responsible for all border crossings, its operations are "severely hampered" by shortages of communications and transport equipment (ibid., p. 9). The importance of border security was re-emphasized on 10 March 2005, when it was reported that the Australian authorities were investigating reports that four alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists may have slipped across the border from Indonesia into East Timor. (9)

The Secretary-General's report also noted the "strained" relationship between East Timor's own armed forces and national police, as shown when a group of 20 armed soldiers attacked a police station in Dill on 16 December 2004, injuring two police officers and damaging the building (UN 2005, p. 2). The police force "still lacks critical skills and proficiency", the Secretary-General's report continued, including in terms of investigation skills, forensics and logistics (ibid., p. 15). The police have, moreover, been subject to multiple reports of serious misconduct including "excessive use of force, assaults, negligent use of firearms and various human rights abuses", coupled with a lack of transparency in its investigations and poor accountability and professionalism (ibid., p. 9). Indeed, of 1,700 police officers put through the first phase of a skills development plan, only half came up to the desired level of competence by December 2004 (ibid., p. 8). Furthermore, allegations of government corruption and political interference in police investigations have undermined public confidence (ibid., p. 15).

Alarmingly, the UN Secretary-General also observed that UN civilian personnel who were due to have handed over their responsibilities to their Timorese counterparts were instead still directly engaged in running key institutions. In this context the justice sector is regarded as being especially weak. Indeed, on 20 January 2005 it was announced that all 22 of East Timor's national judges had failed a written evaluation preventing them from shedding their probationary status and becoming career judges, leaving East Timor's courts wholly reliant on external assistance to continue functioning (ibid., pp. 5-6).

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has highlighted concerns that limited local capabilities will not be able to adequately replace the technical and administrative expertise still currently provided by the UN mission, leading to "a significant negative impact on government functions and services as well as on internal security, in addition to the related economic contraction" (ADB 2004b). In light of these factors, Kofi Annan argued that the "premature termination" of UNMISET could have a negative impact on East Timor's security and stability, the proper functioning of state institutions and could jeopardize the progress made, and thus the international community's considerable investment in East Timor, to date (UN 2005, p. 15). He therefore urged the UN Security Council to renew of UNMISET's mandate for up to 12 months to 20 May 2006 but with a significant scaling back in the mission's manpower and thus cost.

The Secretary-General stated that there was a "compelling need" to retain 35 military liaison officers (down from 42) on the border with Indonesia, backed up by a small international security support force of 144 personnel (down from 310), including logistic and air mobility support units, thus providing for an overall reduction of the UNMISET's military contingent from 477 to 179. Annan also recommended that the reconfigured mission retain the services of 40 police trainers (down from 157), 45 civilian advisers (down from 58) and 10 human rights officers (down from 14) plus a small office to support Sukehiro Hasegawa, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in East Timor (UN 2005, pp. 11-12 and 15-16).

The Secretary-General's recommendations were not met with universal approval, however. The United States, alone among the Security Council members, called for the peacekeeping operation in East Timor to be wound-up on the grounds that there was "no longer a threat to international peace and security requiring a peacekeeping mission", according to U.S. delegate Reed Fendrick. (10) This view was endorsed by Australia with the Australian ambassador to the UN, John Dauth, stating "the current security environment of Timor-Leste does not warrant the continuation of peacekeepers along the border". (11) This led to claims from the Australian opposition that the Australian government was trying to "cut and run" and that the withdrawal of UN forces would serve to leave East Timor vulnerable and reinforce Dili's dependence on Canberra at a time when the two countries are engaged in sensitive boundary negotiations--a view rejected by the Australian government. (12)

Eventually, the Secretary-General's request was heeded and on 28 April 2005, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt resolution 1599 (2005), establishing the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), a "one-year follow-on special political mission" due to remain in the country until 20 May 2006. (13) UNOTIL strength is, however, far less than Kofi Annan requested, the most significant reduction being the lack of a security support force. Rather than undertaking peacekeeping operations, UNOTIL will play a peacebuilding role and to that end will consist of 45 civilian advisers to support the development of critical state institutions; 40 police advisers to support further development of the East Timorese police force; 35 advisers, including 10 military advisers, to support the development of the Border Patrol Unit; and, 10 human rights officers to bolster democratic governance. Once UNOTIL's mandate expires it is anticipated that the UN presence in East Timor will shift to a new framework focusing on sustainable development assistance.

Against this backdrop of fundamental challenges to East Timor's security, stability, economic development and ultimately viability as an independent state, it is easy to understand the paramount importance attached to the maritime boundary delimitation negotiations by Dill. For East Timer, securing a substantial share in the Timer Sea's resources is likely to represent the difference between viable and sustainable independent economic development and underdevelopment, unrest and long-term aid dependency.

The State of Play in the Timor Sea

Australia has been very active and successful with regard to the delimitation of maritime boundaries with its neighbours, concluding multiple agreements with Indonesia (1971, 1972, 1981, 1992 and 1997), the innovative Torres Strait Treaty with Papua New Guinea (PNG) (1978), with France (concerning both New Caledonia in the Pacific and between Australia's Heard and McDonald Islands and France's Kerguelen Island in the sub-Antarctic, 1982), the Solomon Islands (1988), and most recently with New Zealand (2004) (Charney and Alexander 1993 and 1998; Kaye 2001). (14) Australia has therefore concluded agreements with all its maritime neighbours save for East Timor. (15)

With respect to the Timor Sea, in the early 1970s Australia secured a highly advantageous seabed boundary agreements with Indonesia based on the concept of "natural prolongation" (see below). As a result of the presence of the Timor trough significantly closer to the Indonesian coast than the Australian one, the boundary line lies well to the Indonesian side of a median or equidistance line between the opposite coasts involved (see map). The final boundary was, in fact, a compromise between Indonesia's median line position and Australia's desire for a delimitation along the Timor trough axis line. Nonetheless, the boundary, which broadly accords with the 200m depth isobath along the southern side rather than the axis of the Timor trough, was still substantially nearer to the latter position than the former and as a result delivered around 80 per cent of the disputed area to Australia (Charney and Alexander 1993, pp. 1210-11; Kaye 2001, pp. 47-50, and 2003, pp. 51-59).

Following Indonesia's invasion of East Timor and Canberra's subsequent acceptance of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor, itself a source of resentment towards Australia in East Timor (see, for example, Roberts 2005), the two sides came to negotiate closing what became popularly known as the "Timor Gap" between the separate sections of their existing maritime boundary agreements to the east and west. However, evolutions in international law in the 1980s, suggesting that natural prolongation should have no impact on the course of boundary delimitation within 200nm of the coast, transformed matters. As a result of the significantly altered international legal context, Canberra and Jakarta could not agree and instead concluded on a complex yet also highly innovative and comprehensive maritime joint development zone (see, for example, Fox 1989 and 1990: Miyoshi 1999, pp. 17-20).

On independence East Timer maintained that it was not bound by any of the agreements related to East Timor's territory entered into by Jakarta--including the Timer Gap joint development zone. Some progress was made, however, and an interim arrangement, termed the Timer Sea Treaty (TST), was signed in 2002. The TST established a Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA), which encompasses the central part of the old Australia-Indonesia joint zone. The JPDA includes the Bayu-Undan field, but gives East Timer a 90 per cent share of government revenues therein. The TST entered into force in April 2003, allowing production of natural gas from the Bayu-Undan field from February 2004. This field has the potential to generate revenues of around US$3bn over the next two decades.

Subsequently, agreements were reached in 2002 and early 2003 in respect of the unitization of the Sunrise development led by leading Australian oil exploration company Woodside Petroleum, which straddles the JPDA and seabed to the east of the zone which Australia considers to be under its sole sovereignty as this area lies to the south of its agreed delimitation with Indonesia. (16) The problem for East Timer hero is that under the unitization agreements, only 20 per cent of the huge Greater Sunrise field lies within the JPDA (thus in fact giving East Timer an 18 per cent share under the 90:10 split in revenues). East Timer has sought to address this issue by advancing significantly broader claims to offshore areas beyond the limits of the JPDA--including the vast majority of the Greater Sunrise field. Dill has therefore been holding off on ratifying the unitization accords as a means to pressure Australia into being more flexible in its negotiating stance and thus deliver a greater share of these vital seabed resources to sustain its fledgling economy. This, in turn, led Woodside to suspend work on the Sunrise project in early January 2005 and deploy staff elsewhere, potentially delaying production for years. (17)

Attempts to Close the "Timor Gap": Contending Positions

Australia has been subject to considerable criticism for its negotiating stance with respect to East Timer over Timer Sea resources. In particular, a May 2004 Oxfam Community Aid Abroad (Australia) report was highly critical of Canberra's approach, accusing Australia of taking almost 10 times as much in Timor Sea oil and gas revenues than it has provided to East Timor since 1999, of negotiating in bad faith, of unilaterally exploiting resources in areas claimed by both sides and of evading independent international dispute settlement procedures (Oxfaln 2004). The Oxfam report further alleges that Australia has appropriated two-thirds of the Timor Sea's known hydrocarbon resources even though maritime delimitation according to international law "could deliver most, if not all, these resources to East Timor" (Oxfam 2004).

It was also notable that in a March 2004 letter signed by 53 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Australian Prime Minister John Howard was urged to "move seriously and expeditiously in negotiations with East Timor to establish a fair, permanent maritime boundary and an equitable sharing of oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea". (18) Indeed, in May 2005, the Economist commented that "on any reasonable reckoning most of the oil lies in Timorese waters" and that Australia's "continued meanness to East Timor is a blot on its otherwise shining foreign policy record". (19)

Unsurprisingly, Australia does not countenance such suggestions and Canberra has mounted a robust defence of its claims, criticizing the Oxfam report on the grounds of lack of balance and accuracy and terming it "fundamentally flawed and genuinely unhelpful" to the dispute resolution process. (20) The Australian government argues forcefully that Australia has proved to be a positive partner in its dealings with East Timor having played a pivotal role in securing East Timor's independence through the Australian-led UN intervention from 1999, dedicating over 4,500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to support INTERFET at the height of its operations together with over 1,600 deployed in support of the UNTAET. (21) Australia has also supported UNTAET's successor, UNMISET, which was established on East Timor's independence, which, at its peak, involved over 900 ADF personnel. (22) Australia also remains one of East Timor's leading aid donors having committed over A$400m in development aid in the 1999-2004 period. (23) Indeed, Canberra can justifiably argue that no country has done as much as Australia to help realize East Timorese independence and ensure its development.

The contention that Australia has adopted a generous position vis-a-vis East Timor extends to Canberra's interpretation of its stance on the issue of maritime boundary delimitation in the Timor Sea. Australia continues to base its claims on natural prolongation, a concept that is fundamental to claims to jurisdiction over continental shelf areas. There has been considerable debate, however, as to whether natural prolongation merely provides the source of title to the continental shelf rather than representing a relevant circumstance dictating the means to delimit that shelf (see, for example, Evans 1989 and Highet 1989). The latter view has in large part stemmed from the North Sea Continental Shelf cases of 1969 where the ICJ treated natural prolongation as the key consideration in the delimitation of the continental shelf. Higher (1989, pp. 87-90) refers to the term natural prolongation as "vague and marvellous" and the Court's use of it as a "descriptive attribute" used to describe the nature of the continental shelf, rather than a "functional attribute" providing "a reason for finding the boundary".

Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the geophysical characteristics of the sea floor, that is the geomorphology (shape, form and configuration) of the seabed and its geology (composition and structure), should have a role in determining continental shelf boundaries and Australia deployed these arguments to great effect in its maritime boundary negotiations with Indonesia.

With regard to East Timor, Australia argues that the Timor trench represents a clear break between the two countries' continental shelves and its existence substantially closer to the Timorese than Australian coastline remains a key relevant circumstance that would serve to push any delimitation line towards East Timor and substantially away from a median or equidistance line alignment to Australia's advantage--conceivably, according to this logic, as far as the axis of the Timor trough itself, which on average is only around 50km off the coast of East Timor. Australia also argues that Australia has a "broader frontal coastline" in the relevant area that would justify shifting the boundary line in Australia's favour. (24)

Canberra therefore argues that it is being extremely generous in agreeing to a 90:10 split in revenues in East Timor's favour for the zone governed by the TST as, if Australia's arguments were applied in full, East Timor might not be entitled to any of that area including the Bayu-Undan field.

East Timor contends that this position is flawed and relies on outdated concepts of the international law of the sea. East Timor bases its arguments in favour of an equidistance line between the two states' opposite coastlines on substantial state practice coupled with relevant case law, notably the 1985 ICJ decision in the Libya/Malta case. In that case before the ICJ, Libya contended that a "Rift Zone" lay between the parties of such a profound character, described as a "fundamental discontinuity", that it should form the basis of the continental shelf boundary between the two states (ICJ 1985, para. 36).

Ultimately, however, the Court decided to do away with geophysical arguments in their entirety, at least in relation to those areas within 200nm of the coast. The Court found that on the basis of "new developments in international law", as there was less than 400nm between the parties' coastlines, "the geological and geomorphological characteristics of those areas ... are completely immaterial", and that "whatever the geological characteristics of the corresponding seabed and subsoil, there is no reason to ascribe any role to geological or geophysical factors ... either in verifying the legal title of the States concerned or in proceeding to a delimitation as between their claims (see Higher 1993, p. 177).

The Court's decision was based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) regarding the acceptance of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) concept and with it the so-called "distance principle". This development in international law effectively eliminates the possibility of relying on physical natural prolongation as the basis for delimitation as the EEZ is not dependent on geophysical factors and has "essentially assumed control over the legal regime of the shelf in the method of its delimitation" (ibid.).

East Timor therefore argues that the Timor trough is irrelevant for continental shelf division. In any case, East Timor also contends that the Timor trough does not represent a clear geological separation between distinct East Timorese and Australian natural prolongations. Antunes provides an overview of the morphological and geological characteristics of the Timor trough and emphasizes the feature's complexity as well as the fact that some scientific commentators refer to Timor itself as being partially formed of "upthrusted fragments of the Australian continental margin". Indeed, of the five models of the Timor trough reviewed by Antunes "all establish some relationship between the Australian continental margin and Timor" such that it is therefore "very difficult to affirm straightforwardly that there is a geological detachment between Timor island and the Australian margin" (Antunes 2004, pp. 380-82; See also Charney and Alexander 1993, p. 1211).

In fact, under the LOSC, the provisions dealing with the delimitation of the continental shelf and the EEZ are identical. Thus, both Article 74(1) dealing with the EEZ, and Article 83(1) dealing with the continental shelf, state:
   The delimitation of the continental shelf [or exclusive economic
   zone] between States with opposite or adjacent coasts shall be
   effected by agreement on the basis of international law, as
   referred to in Article 38 of the Statute of the International
   Court of Justice, in order to achieve an equitable solution.

No particular method of delimitation such as equidistance is recommended. Instead, the emphasis is on achieving an equitable result. Nevertheless, it is clear that in practice the equidistance method has proved far and away the most popular method of delimitation. Furthermore, in respect of delimitations between opposite coasts, such as those of Australia and East Timer, fully 89 per cent of delimited maritime boundaries are based on some form of equidistance (Legault and Hankey 1993; Prescott and Schofield 2005, p. 238).

Furthermore, while strict equidistance lines do not necessarily translate directly to final delimitations, such lines often provide the starting point for both maritime boundary negotiations and third-party dispute resolution. Indeed, recent cases before the ICJ have strongly reinforced this view. For example, in the Qatar-Bahrain Judgment, the Court was explicit in stating that it had followed "the most logical and widely practised" two-stage approach to delimitation consisting of, first, the drawing of a provisional equidistant line and secondly, considering whether any circumstances exist which should lead to an adjustment or modification of that line in order to achieve an equitable result (ICJ 2001, para. 176; Prescott and Schofield 2005, pp. 240-41). On the basis of substantial state practice and the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals, therefore, East Timer favours the application of the median or equidistance line as the basis for delimitation with Australia.

Thus, Dili believes that whilst Canberra appears to be generous by agreeing to a 90:10 split in revenues from the JPDA in East Timor's favour, especially as the split under the previous Australia-Indonesia deal for this area was 50:50, in reality this is an illusion. East Timer argues that the entirety of the JPDA lies on its side of a median line between the two states' opposite coastlines, that there are no circumstances that justify a departure from such an equidistance-based line and therefore that Australia has no right to even 10 per cent of the revenue derived from the TST zone. Instead, on the basis of substantial state practice and the jurisprudence of international courts and tribunals, therefore, East Timor has argued strenuously for the application of the median or equidistance line as the basis for delimitation with Australia.

Widening the "Gap"

East Timor, of course, was not party to the bilateral Australia-Indonesia boundary agreements, the terminal points of which define the extent of the "Timor Gap". Instead, East Timor argues that there is justification for widening its "window" on the Timor Sea. This argument is fundamental to East Timor's contention that it is entitled to as much as three times more in terms of oil and gas revenues than it would receive through present arrangements as several major oil and gas fields are located just to the east and west of the current TST joint zone. These include the vast majority of the Greater Sunrise field to the east and the Laminaria and Buffalo fields to the west. East Timor therefore lays claim to significant hydrocarbon deposits which Canberra considers to be on exclusively Australian seabed by virtue of their location to the south of the boundary line agreed with Indonesia (see map). If East Timor were to accept the current situation by ratifying the unitization agreement and allowing the JPDA to continue to function, it is estimated that Dili would receive around A$5.7bn (US$4.1bn) in government revenues over 30 years. Instead, East Timor maintains that it is entitled to around three times that figure or approximately A$17bn (US$12.3bn) (Oxfam 2004).

The problem for East Timor is that the lateral lines that define the limits of the old Australia-Indonesia joint zone and the current JPDA were simplified lines of equidistance (Charney and Alexander 1993, p. 1250). Thus, while East Timor is arguing for control over areas and resources clearly nearer to East Timor than to Australia, these areas are also nearer to Indonesia than East Timor. East Timor can make the case that to the east the relatively small Indonesian islands of Leti, Moa and Lakor inequitably shift the equidistance line to Indonesia's advantage and should be given a reduced effect. Similarly, to the west, East Timor can contend that the headland of Tanjong We Toh, located immediately west of the terminus of the land boundary on the Timor Sea coast, inequitably deflects the equidistance line to East Timor's disadvantage and should also be discounted (see map). Nevertheless, Indonesia is likely to argue to the contrary and this is undoubtedly a problematic aspect of East Timor's case yet crucial to Dili's claims for a substantially greater share of the resources of the Timor Sea (see, for example, Rothwell and Tsamenyi 2000). It is also worth noting that were East Timor successful in taking the dispute to the ICJ (notwithstanding Australia's objections), it is highly likely that the Court would not be in a position to rule on the areas to the east and west of the JPDA without the consent of Indonesia on the basis that the rights of that state might be infringed by the Court's judgment.

At present Australian authorities have refused to countenance any East Timorese "ambit claims" (25) to the east and west of the "Timor Gap" and has continued to take the revenues, at a reported rate of over A$1m per day, from the gas fields which are on the Australian side of its boundary with Indonesia but on the northern (East Timorese) side of a median line and in close proximity to the current joint development zone--action that was vigorously protested by the Dili authorities (Oxfam 2004). Australia has been urged to hold revenue from disputed areas located on East Timor's side of the median line but outside the JPDA in escrow until the dispute has been resolved. (26) John Howard has, however, stated that Australia has exercised jurisdiction over the relevant area for "an extensive period of time" and that international law does not require revenues from that area to be placed in escrow "simply because another State subsequently makes an ambit claim to sovereignty rights over that area". (27)

In the aftermath of intemperate public exchanges including Timorese accusations that Australia "illegally occupying" the disputed maritime areas and engaged in "unlawful exploitation" of the resources therein, bilateral relations deteriorated sharply. (28) In this context it was perhaps notable that Canberra trimmed back its development aid budget allocation for East Timor by 8.4 per cent in May 2004 even though the overall aid budget rose. (29) East Timorese leaders interpreted this as punishment for their refusal to accede to Australian desires in the Timor Sea (Harding 2004). Again, Australia rejects this view, instead pressing its leading donor credentials with regard to East Timor.

Side-stepping the International Court of Justice

Another facet to the dispute that has soured bilateral relations and undermined mutual trust is the issue of third-party adjudication. In March 2002, a mere two months before East Timorese independence, Australia withdrew from the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ with regard to settling any dispute over its maritime boundaries.

Australia is wholly within its rights to take this decision, which effectively forestalls any attempt to take Australia to court on maritime boundary matters as the consent of the parties involved is a prerequisite for the ICJ or similar tribunals to hold jurisdiction. Australia is also far from the only state to have opted for this course of action. Australia has argued that it is far more preferable to negotiate maritime boundaries rather than submit them to binding international adjudication. Canberra also has legitimate concerns over relinquishing control over the dispute, the potential for the ICJ or other international tribunal to hand down an unpalatable, as well as unpredictable, result as well as implications in terms of time and the potentially substantial costs involved. Australia has also stressed that its withdrawal from the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ does not only apply to maritime boundaries and is "not aimed at any particular country", applying to all Australia's neighbours equally.

Nonetheless, the fact that Australia has already concluded maritime boundary delimitation agreements with all its other maritime neighbours, coupled with the timing of the decision to withdraw, just prior to East Timor achieving independence, has given rise to substantial suspicions on the East Timorese side that Australia's action was specifically designed to frustrate any attempt by Dili to take the maritime boundary dispute to the ICJ or the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for a final and binding independent decision. Naturally, Australia categorically rejects this viewpoint but Canberra has nevertheless attracted significant international criticism for this action. (30)

Australia's reluctance to submit the dispute to the ICJ has been taken in East Timer to indicate that Australia has not been negotiating in good faith as it is aware that it has a case that is "not credible or sustainable" in international law and that the IGJ, in line with decisions in recent cases, would be likely to reject Australia's geomorphological arguments and take the median line as the starting point for delimitation (Ramos-Horta 2004).

Australia strongly contests this interpretation. Nevertheless, the fundamental consequence of Australia's action is that, in the absence of legal adjudication by a third party like the ICJ, the dispute will need to be resolved through negotiations.

In a similar vein, East Timer has also repeatedly expressed frustration at Australia's leisurely pace in handling the negotiations including a somewhat bizarre suggestion by Canberra that it lacked the resources to meet for negotiations more than once every six months even though the Timorese were willing to meet on a more frequent basis.

The Role of Indonesia

In a sense Canberra is painted into something of a corner on this issue as, even though, technically, every maritime boundary should be viewed as unique and considered in isolation, there can be little doubt that Jakarta is watching closely. Were Canberra to concede a median line in its boundary negotiations with East Timor, this could conceivably jeopardize existing Australia-Indonesia boundaries and disrupt improving bilateral relations. Such a move might well prompt calls within Indonesia, however unrealistic, for a renegotiation of its own boundary treaties with a view to gaining a settlement that would be more advantageous than the ones it signed up to in the 1960s and 70s. At the least, Australia's acceptance of a median line with respect to East Timor would be likely to reawaken Indonesian perceptions of injustice that much of its seabed boundary alignment is much closer to the Indonesian than Australian coast on the basis of natural prolongation arguments dating from the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, there is a prevailing view in Jakarta that Indonesia was "taken to the cleaners" when these agreements were negotiated (Kaye 2003, p. 54). This is notwithstanding the fact that boundary treaties, once signed, are final and not subject to change save through agreement by all parties concerned.

As Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on 16 November 2004, Australia has no wish to "unscramble the omelette" of all its previously agreed boundaries with neighbouring states. (31) While such a scenario seems highly improbable in purely legal terms, the political ramifications are significant. It is notable that the 1997 agreement between Australia and Indonesia remains unratified and Canberra remains anxious to forestall any potential threat to this treaty, however slight, as it was the result of years of negotiations and thus represents a very considerable diplomatic investment. Downer made Australia's position clear on 26 April 2005: "What Australia doesn't want is to unravel all of our maritime boundaries which have been negotiated over many years with all our neighbours". (32)

Additionally, Canberra is keen to engage with the new government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with a view to rebuilding bilateral relations, which are still recovering from Canberra's support for East Timorese independence and key role in the intervention that brought that about. A new security agreement is being mooted to replace the 1995 Agreement on Maintaining Security abrogated by Jakarta as a result of Australia's intervention in East Timor in 1999. Given this delicate context, there is no desire in Canberra to see strategically important and developing ties with Jakarta compromised by the East Timor boundary issue.

For East Timor, Indonesia also represents a vitally important neighbour, particularly in light of the relative size and power of the two States coupled with the background of Indonesia's former occupation of East Timor and role in backing pro-Indonesian militias in the conflict following the pro-independence referendum of 1999. Indonesia is also important to East Timor in terms of trade as well as security. In respect of the latter concern, the presence of former militia members in west Timor, border security and the absence of a final boundary delimitation agreement on the land boundary loom large.

Dili has been keen to improve relations with Jakarta, particularly following the election of President Yudhoyono. To this end the President of East Timer, Xanana Gusmao, met his Indonesian counterpart on 13 December 2004 and agreed on the establishment of a Truth and Friendship Commission. This has raised serious concerns that those guilty of crimes in the course of the violence following the 1999 independence vote in East Timer will go unpunished, especially as the UN's Serious Crimes Unit in East Timer is being wound down, ending all investigations on 30 November 2004, despite the fact that 304 indicted individuals remain at large beyond East Timor's territory. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the vast majority of individuals put on trial before Indonesia's own ad hoc human rights tribunal, including key figures such as East Timor's last Governor of the then Indonesian province, Abilio Soares, and the former regional military commander, Major General Adam Damiri, have either been found not guilty or acquitted on appeal. (33)

In this Dili appears to be adopting a pragmatic stance, putting bilateral relations with Jakarta ahead of pursuing justice with East Timorese Foreign Minister Ramos Horta commenting that "East Timor is not going to be the Lilliputian judge, which is going to bring justice to very powerful Indonesian ministers ... If we are seen by Indonesia as conniving with the international community to continue to embarrass Indonesia, it could have a backlash against East Timor" (Loyn 2005).

Breaking the Deadlock?

In August 2004 there were indications that the framework for a compromise deal was coming together whereby East Timor looked set to gain a substantially larger proportion of the oil and gas revenues at stake, thus addressing Dili's key concern. In turn, Australia's sovereignty concerns would be acknowledged, with discussions on a permanent boundary line being deferred for as long as 100 years, thereby helping to safeguard Australia's other important boundary agreements with Indonesia.

Emerging from bilateral talks held in Canberra on 11-12 August Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and his East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta agreeing that a significant breakthrough had been achieved with the former declaring that "we have really made some extraordinarily good progress today". Mr Ramos-Horta stated that "acrimonious voices" had ended and that the political will now existed on both sides to settle the dispute "constructively, pragmatically and creatively".

Such rhetoric represented a boon to the Howard government in domestic political terms, taking place as it did just prior to the Australian federal elections in October 2004. The Australian government portrayed the draft agreement as a generous gesture towards a poor and disadvantaged neighbouring state on Canberra's part. Indeed, Downer went so far as to describe the proposed deal as a potential "Christmas present" for the people of East Timor, painting Australia as Father Christmas with at least one eye on heading off the East Timor boundary question as a potential election issue as well as countering the considerable international and domestic criticism levelled at the Australian government for the apparently harsh and legally dubious position it has adopted against a small developing state. Unfortunately, however the Australian foreign minister's comment that he anticipated "endless argy-bargy about the details" in future rounds of negotiations proved prophetic.

The Talks Collapse

A further round of negotiations between Australia and East Timor took place in Dili but broke up acrimoniously on 27 October 2004. Australia is understood to have proposed, on the basis of the outline agreement achieved in August, that Australia pay East Timor a "subsidy" of the order of US$2-3bn extra in revenues, a deal that would give East Timor roughly half of the government revenues deriving from the Greater Sunrise development. Foreign Minister Downer later termed this offer "disproportionate and unfair to Australia", but one that Canberra was clearly still willing to make in the interests of good neighbourliness and extending a helping hand to disadvantaged East Timor. (34)

The talks foundered over the size of the subsidy on offer and, crucially, the issue of East Timorese participation in the "downstream" processing of resources. East Timor's Foreign Minister stated that Australia had issued a "take it or leave it" offer which would involve Dili accepting Canberra's position on the maritime boundary in exchange for "compensation" of the order of US$3bn spread over three decades--significantly less than the US$4.5bn he said had been discussed during the August talks. Ramos-Horta stated that as far as East Timor was concerned this offer "amounted to an unacceptable blackmail" (Ramos-Horta 2004).

A key sticking point appears to have been Dill raising the issue of East Timorese participation in the "downstream" processing of the resources, and in particular the benefits to the East Timorese economy if gas from the Greater Sunrise is to be brought ashore in Dili rather than Darwin, as Canberra would prefer. This seems to represent somewhat belated realization on the part of the East Timorese that in reality the location of liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing operations could represent an even bigger prize than the royalties from oil and gas exploitation itself.

East Timorese Prime Minister Alkitiri, writing in the Age (Melbourne) on 3 November 2004, lamented that the Australian side "only wanted to talk about money" rather than the issue of the location for the LNG processing operations and pointed out that one estimate of the potential benefit to the Darwin region of bringing the Greater Sunrise gas onshore for processing there amounted to A$22bn. He went on to note that the gas from the Bayu-Udan field is already being brought ashore in Australia and that East Timor would realize no benefits from the downstream activities associated with that processing. He went on to note that oil company Woodside had estimated that the distance to East Timor was 150kin, compared with 500km to Australia, and that "technology is no longer an impediment". Alkitiri stressed that the political will existed on the East Timorese side to "achieve a just settlement" but there was still a need to find "a fair means of sharing upstream revenue as well as downstream benefits". (35)

Unremarkably, the Australian take on the negotiations is somewhat different. Alexander Downer stated that Australia did not deliver an ultimatum, and that the figures offered by Ramos-Horta were incorrect, although he did not elaborate. Instead he argued that Australia had offered numerous "constructive solutions", but that these were rejected by the Timorese. (36) While it is reportedly technically feasible to construct a pipeline from the Timor Sea gas fields to East Timor, the presence of the Timor trough means that this is likely to be a considerably more expensive option than the alternative of a pipeline to bring the gas onshore at Darwin, despite the fact that such a pipeline would be substantially longer than one to East Timor. The higher costs of establishing a processing plant in East Timor rather than Australia have also been raised as a significant disincentive to the idea of LNG processing on East Timorese territory.

As a result of the breakdown in negotiations the development of the huge Greater Sunrise field which contains an estimated 7.8 trillion cubic: feet of gas worth A$5-7bn (US$3.8-5.3bn) development appeared to be in jeopardy. Woodside suspended all work on the project after the end of 2004 deadline the company set for resolution of the boundary issue and ratification of the unitization agreement passed, citing lack of legal and fiscal certainty needed to seal the long-term supply contracts needed to underpin development of the field. This is despite the fact that the company has already invested over A$200m in the project in exploration, planning and marketing costs. (37) Although the field has been fully appraised and Woodside could readily return, there are concerns that the company's attentions have shifted to other more attractive fields on Australia's North West Shelf. This could result in a substantial delay, and would constitute a serious blow to East Timor, which regards offshore hydrocarbon development as a national imperative. The effect on East Timor is likely to be a substantial scaling back in anticipated revenues from oil and gas as the horizon for the development of fields is pushed back.

The negotiation process broke down on downstream issues as well as the size of compensation payments despite encouraging earlier signs in terms of a revenue sharing deal for the Timor Sea resources themselves. In particular, Canberra appeared to be exasperated by what it views as East Timor having "backtracked" on the outline deal agreed in August and raising fresh obstacles. (38) For its part East Timor continued to pursue its potentially risky strategy of publicly criticizing and essentially trying to embarrass Australia into agreeing to a more favourable deal. With this in mind, East Timor raised the possibility of requesting the UN General Assembly to in turn request that the ICJ examine the dispute. Although the ICJ would only be able to deliver a non-binding advisory opinion, the move would discomfit Australia.

To what extent these exchanges amounted to brinkmanship and posturing as both sides manoeuvred to secure the best deal for themselves within the negotiations context remains difficult to gauge. Nevertheless, East Timor maintains that it will not be forced by sheer economic necessity to simply take what Australia offers, lose Ramos-Horta indicated on 29 November that East Timor would not give in to Australian "pressure or bullying tactics". Having waited 24 years to achieve freedom and independence, he observed that "we can wait a few more years" rather than submit to what East Timor views as an unfair settlement (Ramos-Horta 2004). In stark contrast, his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, urged East Timor to "respond with grace" to Canberra's offer and acknowledge the "tremendous" assistance provided by Australia, pointing out bluntly that: "East Timor wouldn't be an independent country if it wasn't for Australia". (39)

One key consideration which may have helped to break the deadlock is that Australian Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly made it clear that it has no desire to see the emergence of "failed States" on Australia's doorstep. East Timor has repeatedly emphasized that the only foreseeable way in which it can hope to undertake sustained development and thus avoid sliding towards failed state status is through securing a significant share of the seabed resources of the Timor Sea. On this basis, it is clearly in Australia's own interests to ensure East Timor economic viability and thus security and political stability.


Against this backdrop, a fresh round of maritime boundary delimitation negotiations between East Timor and Australia took place on 7-9 March and 27-29 April 2005. It appears that the two sides edged closer to a compromise at the March meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer emerging to comment that "very good progress" had been made and that the framework for an agreement had been "nutted out". (40) No agreement was finalized, however, and Downer added the caveat that details still needed to be worked out and that "there have been times in the past I've thought we were really getting there and then it's gone backwards". (41)

The April meetings yielded "substantial agreement on all major issues" according to Downer, including a "breakthrough" on the crucial issue of sharing revenues derived from the key Greater Sunrise field, the development of which could now proceed. Downer estimated that the deal would be worth "two to five billion" dollars of additional revenue to East Timor, dependent on oil prices, over and above that set to flow to the country as a result of the TST and JPDA. Downer insisted that "we don't want to keep East Timor poor" and that "Australia's interest isn't to rip off East Timor" but that Australia was not a charity and had its own legitimate interests to protect. (42)

Downer's counterpart, Jose Ramos-Horta, commented on 3 May 2005 that while many details still have to be worked through, "unprecedented progress" had been made, and that the two countries were "on the threshold" of agreement and a new era in bilateral relations as a consequence: "I am confident that we are on the brink of securing an agreement to handle for a long period of time our competing claims in the Timor Sea and in turn unlock the enormous hydrocarbon potential of this region." (43) A subsequent meeting in Sydney on 11-13 May resulted in the draft agreement being finalized, ready for submission to the two governments. Assuming both sides are happy with the deal, the Australia and East Timor can now move to signing a formal treaty and resolution of the dispute.

A "Fair Go" for East Timor?

Does the draft agreement represent a "fair go" for East Timor and an equitable deal overall? As the two States have freely entered into the agreement, the verdict must be in the affirmative. Reports indicate that permanent maritime boundary delimitation negotiations will be deferred for up to 60 years. In return for agreeing to this, East Timor's share in revenues deriving from the Greater Sunrise field is set to increase to 50 per cent from the figure of 18 per cent under the TST and unitization agreement.

The draft agreement therefore suits Australia, which is concerned that acceding to East Timorese demands for a median line will jeopardize its existing maritime boundary agreements with neighbouring states, especially Indonesia. At the same time the agreement secures several billion dollars in additional revenue for East Timer over and above the amount to be provided under existing agreements. The alternative is, in any case, unpalatable for East Timer as Australia has made it abundantly clear that were East Timer to continue to press for a permanent boundary delimitation, this could take considerable time and result in East Timer missing out on very substantial oil and gas revenues. While it could be argued that East Timor's hand has been to some extent forced, it is worth noting that the agreement will be without prejudice to the sovereignty claims of either party. Overall, the agreement therefore appears to be a creative and mutually beneficial one, albeit born of some necessity on East Timor's part. Ultimately, the negotiation has resulted in both sides making significant concessions and for East Timer, the agreement potentially goes a long way towards dispelling the dire prospect of East Timer becoming the world's latest failed state if the oil revenues are used wisely: a "fair go" for both states.


Antunes, Nuno Sergio Marques. Towards the Conceptualisation of Maritime Delimitation. Leiden/Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2004.

Asian Development Bank (ADB). "ADB's Program in Timor-Leste to Focus on Quality of Life". ADB news release, No.123/04, 2004a.

--. Asian Development Outlook 2004. 2004b.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), CIA World Factbook. Washington D.C.: CIA. http://

Charney, Jonatban I. and Lewis M. Alexander, eds. International Maritime Boundaries. Vols. I and II. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993.

--, eds. International Maritime Boundaries. Vol. III. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1998.

Deeley, Neil. 2001. "The International Boundaries of East Timor". Boundary and Territory Briefing 3(5), Durham: International Boundaries Research Unit.

Evans, M.D. Relevant Circumtances and Maritime Delimitation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

Fox, Hazel et al., eels. Joint Development of Offshore Oil and Gas: A Model Agreement for States for Joint Development with Explanatory Commentary. London: British Institute for International and Comparative Law, 1989.

--, ed. Joint Development of Offshore Oil and Gas. Vol. II. London: British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 1990.

Harding, Andrew. "East Timor Struggles to Find its Feet". BBC News online, http://, 20 May 2004.

Hewett, Andrew. "Oil and Gas are Vital to East Timor's Long-Term Viability". Canberra Times, 9 March 2005.

Highet, Keith. "Whatever Became of Natural Prolongation?". In Bights to Ocean Resources, edited by Dallmeyer. D.G. and DeVorsey, pp. 87-100. L. London/Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989.

Hordern, Nick. "Dili Dallies on Oil Projects". Jane's Intelligence Review 15, no. 2 (2003) (February): 3-4.

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--. "Case Concerning Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain". Judgment of 16 March 2001. The Hague: ICJ Reports. 2001.

Kaye, Stuart. "Australia's Maritime Boundaries". Wollongong: Centre lot Maritime Policy. Wollongong Papers on Maritime Policy, no. 12, 2nd edition, 2001.

--. "East Timor and Maritime Boundary Delimitations". In Protecting Maritime Resources: Boundary Delimitation, Resource Conflicts and Constabulary Responsibilities, edited by Rachael Heath and Barry Snushall. pp. 51-59. Canberra: Sea Power Centre Australia, 2003.

Legault, L. and B. Hankey. "Method, Oppositeness and Adjacency, and Proportionality in Maritime Boundary Delimitation". In International Maritime Boundaries, Vol. I, edited by I. Jonathan Charney, and Lewis M. Alexander, pp. 203-42. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993.

Loyn, David. "Justice for Timor War Criminals?". BBC News online,,18 February 2005.

Miyoshi, Masahiro. The Joint Development of Offshore Oil and Gas in Relation to Maritime Boundary Delimitation, Maritime Briefing, 2(5), Durham: International Boundaries Research Unit, 1999.

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(1) UN News Service (, 10, 15 and 16 November 2004; Agence France-Presse (AFP), 17 November 2004.

(2) United Nations, Press Release SC/8371 (see:

(3) Estimates of the value of the oil and gas reserves of the Timer Sea vary considerably and it is frequently unclear precisely which areas are being referred to. Nevertheless, figures of US$20-30bn are commonplace in media reports.

(4) The figure of 250,000 lives lost in East Timer during the Indonesian occupation is frequently but not consistently used. For example, the CIA World Factbook (CIA, 2005) gives the estimated figure of 100,000-250,000.

(5) See UNMISET's homepage (

(6) The Australian, 1 July 2004.

(7) Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News Online, 1 March 2005: ABC Radio Australia, 8 April 2005.

(8) The author is indebted to I Made Andi Arsana for drafting the map.

(9) AFP, citing Portuguese news agency Lusa, 10 March 2005.

(10) ABC News Online, 1 March 2005.

(11) Statement by H.E. Mr John Dauth LVO, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia, to the United Nations Security Council on the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timer, 28 February, 2005. See:

(12) ABC News Online, 1 March 2005.

(13) United Nations, Press Release SC/8371 (see:

(14) In respect of the Treaty between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand establishing Certain Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Boundaries, Background Information, 25 July 2004. see: http://www.

(15) Relatively minor extended continental shelf delimitations are, however, still required with France in respect of New Caledonia and between Australia's Heard and MacDonald Islands and France's Kerguelan Island in the sub-Antarctic, as well as in respect of the Australian Antarctic Territory.

(16) Woodside owns 33.4 per cent of Sunrise in partnership with ConocoPhillips (30 per cent), Royal Dutch/Shell Group (26.6 per cent) and Japan's Osaka Gas Co. (10 per cent).

(17) The Australian, 14 January 2005.

(18) Letter to The Honourable John Howard, 5 March 2004 and Howard's response to Congressman Barney Frank. 2 April 2004 (available at:

(19) The Economist, Survey of Australia, 7 May 2005, p. 11.

(20) Letter from Bill Paterson, First Assistant Secretary, South and South-East Asia Division, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to Andrew Hewett, Executive Director, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, 4 June 2004. Published by Oxfam at:

(21) See Australian Government. Department of Defence "Defence Support to Timer Leste", See also UNTAET's homepage.

(22) See Australian Government, Department of Defer, nee "East Timor: Operation Citadel",

(23) AusAID, "East Timer Program Details",

(24) Antunes (2004, pp. 376-77) estimates East Timor's coastal front in the relevant area, that is, its southern facade, as approximately 148nm. Three estimates of the more complex Australian coastal front onto the relevant area, defined as being bound by the extreme baseline points contributing to the construction of a median line between the opposing coasts, are provided--462nm, 327nm and 119nm. Antunes argues that the second alternative offered is the appropriate one, but that, in any case, the disparity in coastal length is not of such a disproportionate character as to necessitate a shift in the median line boundary.

(25) Bill Patterson, First Assistant Secretary, South and South-East Asia Division, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, speaking to ABC radio, 21 July 2004.

(26) Letter to The Honourable John Howard, 5 March 2004, available at:

(27) Letter from John Howard to Congressman Barney Frank, 2 April 2004.

(28) BBC News online,, 19 May 2005.

(29) See Ravi Tomar, "The Changing Focus of Australia's Aid Program: Budget 20042005", Research Note No. 59, 2003-2004, Parliamentary Library, 31 May 2004, This trend was, however, reversed in the May 2005 Australian Federal budget with aid to East Timer rising from A$39.9m to A$42m.

(30) See note 18.

(31) Comment made at a symposium on "Strategic Directions for Australia and the Law of the Sea" held at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, 16 November 2004.

(32) AFP, 26 April 2005.

(33) See, for example, "East Timor's Unfinished Business", BBC News online,, 5 November 2004, and "Jakarta Rejects Timer Convictions", BBC News online, 6 August 2004.

(34) Comment made at a symposium on "Strategic Directions for Australia and the Law of the Sea" held fit the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, 16 November 2004.

(35) The Age, 3 November 2004.

(36) Dow Jones Newswire, 1 December 2004.

(37) The Australian. 14 January 2005.

(38) Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 2004.

(39) Dow Jones Newswire, 1 December 2004.

(40) ABC News Online, 11 March 2005.

(41) ABC News Online 11 March 2005.

(42) ABC Radio. 28 April 2005.

(44) ABC News Online. 3 May 2005.

CLIVE SCHOFIELD is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
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Date:Aug 1, 2005
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