Australia Gov't Pushes for Ratification of Timor Sea Treaty

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said that discussions with East Timor last week were very productive and most of the differences over the Timor Sea Treaty have been resolved. Legislation is expected to be introduced this week to the national parliament for ratification of the treaty.

The Timor Sea Treaty governs a 23,900-square mile petroleum development area between the new nation of East Timor and Australia. Among the issues under discussion was the distribution of revenue, which will be split 90:10 in favor of East Timor. The Timor Sea Treaty nullifies a previous agreement between Australia and Indonesia which split royalties from the joint development area equally between the two countries. East Timor ratified the treaty last December but Australian approval has been held up by negotiations over an international unitization agreement alongside the main treaty. The unitization agreement will govern how royalties are divided from the Sunrise gas field, which lies 20 percent in the treaty area and 80 percent in what is currently classed as Australian waters.

If ratified this week, the treaty would meet a supply deadline for a $909 million Sunrise liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in the Timor Sea which expires on March 11, 2003.