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Commission says Australia 'bullying' East Timor

Melbourne's Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace jas accused the Australian government of making a "greedy grab" for the Timor Sea oil revenue to the detriment of East Timor.

Australia and East Timor are engaged in talks in Dili this week to establish a permanent maritime boundary in the oil-rich Timor Sea. Australia had earlier won an 82% slice, but East Timor wants the new seabed boundary no further away than halfway between the two countries.

Commission executive officer Marc Purcell said under the International Law of the Sea, the boundary should be drawn in the sea halfway between the two countries - handing East Timor two-thirds of the oil riches.

He said the Australian government has refused to submit to the international "umpire", the International Court of Justice, to resolve the dispute.

"If a line were drawn half way in the sea between the two countries, two thirds of these riches would lie closer to East Timor and, according to the International Law of the Sea, be rightfully theirs," Mr Purcell said.

Officials fear negotiations could drag on for decades, with Australia preferring to meet only twice a year for boundary talks, while the East Timorese wanted to meet monthly.

"No one is holding their breath with the negotiations," Mr Purcell said.

"Negotiations, which should only take a couple of years at most, will instead only be finished when our grandchildren are heading for retirement and the oil and gas fields under Australia's control have dried up."

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has warned his government could withhold ratification of a joint agreement over the lucrative Greater Sunrise field if Australia did not negotiate in good faith.

Australia 'bullying' E Timor over oil (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald 19/4/04)

THIRTY BILLION REASONS TO HELP EAST TIMOR TO ITS OIL (Catholic Commission for Justice Development & Peace 18/4/04)
TIMOR LESTE AND THE TIMOR SEA (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Briefing, March 2004)
East Timor fears grim future (The Age 20/4/04)
East Timor turns up pressure over boundary negotiations (ABC Radio The World Today 19/4/04)
The line share (The Australian 20/4/04)
Timorese fury at 'immoral oil grab' (The Guardian 19/4/04)
Timor Sea, Boundaries and Oil (ETAN) | Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri" Timor Sea oil is passport from poverty (ETAN 2/9/02)
Office of Territory Development: Timor Sea Oil and Gas
Angola's bishops want oil wealth shared (The Tablet 17/4/04)

20 Apr 2004