Hague Court to Hear East Timor Boundary Dispute
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled Monday that it will conduct a compulsory arbitration of the dispute between East Timor and Australia over their maritime boundary.
The court reached its decision last week but the announcement was delayed until Monday. It ruled that it has jurisdiction under a section of UNCLOS which has never been used before. The arbitration process, called "conciliation," would not be binding.
Billions' worth of undersea gas deposits in the region have made the line of demarcation economically significant for both parties.
Australia has argued that its existing maritime treaty covering the Timor Sea forbids any further negotiations for a 50-year period, and says that under the treaty, East Timor has accumulated $12 billion from oil and gas revenues. Under the current agreement, the nations would split revenue 50/50 from the “Greater Sunrise” field, which straddles the boundary.
East Timor asserts that the treaty is invalid: during a previous round of negotiations, in 2006, Australian spies allegedly conducted surveillance on East Timorese officials, and East Timor asserts that this calls the validity of the existing treaty into question.
"Just as we fought so hard and suffered so much for our independence, Timor-Leste will not rest until we have our sovereign rights over both land and sea," said East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao.
The arbitration proceedings will be held in a "confidential setting."
The PCA is the same governing body that invalidated China's sweeping claims to the South China Sea earlier this year.