U.S. praises Australia-East Timor treaty signing

The Timor-Leste and Australian governments have signed the new maritime boundary agreement whereby the border will be at a midway point between the two countries, meaning improved terms for Timor-Leste.

The treaty marks the conclusion of a conflict between Australia and East Timor that went on for ten years about rights over oil and gas reserves in the sea.

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.

Timor-Leste's chief negotiator Xanana Gusmao said: "History is made today as Timor-Leste signs a treaty on permanent maritime boundaries that establishes, for the first time, a fair border between our two countries, based on worldwide law".

"Australia has an enduring interest in a stable and prosperous Timor-Leste. we want Timor-Leste to achieve its economic potential", she said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said developing Greater Sunrise would "require the support of the private sector oil and gas joint venture companies whose capacity to develop and operate the project will depend on its economic viability". Last August the two countries chose to agree to the Sunrise development concept by February.

Access to the gas fields could generate significant revenue for Indonesia, Professor Rothwell said.

The treaty was the result of the first-ever conciliation under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, brought by Timor-Leste, angry at revelations Australian spies had allegedly bugged the offices of Timorese officials during previous negotiations.

Signed by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Timor-Leste Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for the Delimitation of Borders, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira, at the UN headquarters in NY in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the pact marks the successful conclusion of the first recourse to conciliation proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

East Timor's minister for delimitation of borders, Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira agreed, saying: "Today is indeed a momentous day that will be recorded in East Timor's history and be remembered and celebrated".

East Timorese Minister Agio Pereira said the deal was "equitable" and "consistent with global law". Ms Bishop said: "This treaty represents the importance of rules and the benefits of all states abiding by the rules".

Bishop also addressed accusations from Gusmao that the conciliation committee had shown bias and used inferior technical expertise, putting forward a formal recommendation against convention, which favoured Australia.

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 conciliation shows how worldwide law can enable countries to resolve their disputes peacefully".