Through a series of confidential meetings with the Conciliation Commission in The Hague from 9 to 13 October, Timor-Leste and Australia reached agreement on the complete text of a draft treaty as anticipated in the Comprehensive Package Agreement of 30 August 2017. This draft treaty delimits the maritime boundary between them in the Timor Sea and addresses the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field, the establishment of a Special Regime for Greater Sunrise, a pathway to the development of the resource, and the sharing of the resulting revenue. The Parties will now pursue their domestic approval processes in order to proceed with the signing of the Treaty. The Parties will continue to engage with the Greater Sunrise Joint Venture regarding the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field, as well as with other stakeholders with resource interests in the Timor Sea.
Chief Negotiator Xanana Gusmão visited the United States from 16 to 23 September, as part of the Timor-Leste Government’s continuing United States engagement strategy on maritime boundaries. As part of the Chief Negotiator’s visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly and g7+ side events, the MBO organised participation and attendance at numerous events on the margins of the official proceedings. In addition to events with think tanks, CPLP Ambassadors and other key supporters in New York, the Chief Negotiator participated in several community events with the Portuguese American community in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
On 30 August 2017, during conciliation meetings in Copenhagen, Timor-Leste and Australia reached agreement in principle on a comprehensive maritime boundary agreement. This date has historic significance for Timor-Leste as it marks the 18th anniversary of the referendum which led to Timor-Leste’s independence.
In addition to delimiting maritime boundaries, the Copenhagen agreement addresses the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field, the establishment of a Special Regime for the development of Greater Sunrise, a pathway to the development of the resource, and arrangements for how the resulting revenue will be shared.
MBO was invited to brief the delegation attending the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA and other young diplomats, directors and ex-ambassadors on the progress of the Compulsory Conciliation between Timor-Leste and Australia.
Ms. Kirsty Sword brought a group visiting from Australia to the MBO for a short briefing on the Compulsory Conciliation with Australia. The team was interested in the result of the process in relation to the future development of Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste and Australia continued participating in the meetings with the Conciliation Commission to find a solution to the maritime boundary dispute in the Timor Sea.
The Chairman, Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen was quoted on the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Press Release on 9 August 2017. He stated, “Difficult issues remain, but given the goodwill shown by both governments throughout this process, the Commission remains confident that we will be able to overcome the Parties’ differences and reach an agreement.”
The meetings were administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
MBO sent select staff members for trainings in the relevant areas of their expertise. MBO Communications and Translations officer attended the Summer Institute on Linguistics Research in Kentucky in the United States. Select Operations staff were sent to Portugal and Indonesia for training in management. MBO’s junior legal adviser was selected for the Rhodes Academy of Ocean Law and Policy in Greece. MBO will continue invest in its local staff for the development of Timor-Leste.
MBO organised Judge Philip Rapoza to participate in a round table discussion about justice and the law with young diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
As a legal expert in the field for more than 35 years, Judge Rapoza shared his knowledge and experience about the importance of an independent judiciary and the separation of powers
The young diplomats attended the meeting attentively and raised important questions on issues relating to law and justice.
A delegation from the MBO visited the United States from 30 July to 15 August 2017, as part of the Timor-Leste Government’s continuing United States engagement strategy on maritime boundaries. The Timor-Leste team met with members of the United States Congress and their staff, members of the Portuguese American Caucus and communities, and international non-governmental organisations. The primary purpose was to build awareness of the National Defence Authorisation Act – a bill that outlines America’s major defence and security priorities and includes a reference to the Timor-Leste maritime boundary dispute with Australia. The team provided updates to Congress on the maritime boundary conciliation process.
The meetings within the Compulsory Conciliation between Timor-Leste and Australia continued. Both Parties are working closely with the Conciliation Commission to explore the meeting points between the two nations.
The Chairman, Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen affirmed that, “Over the course of the last months, the Commission has gained a deeper understanding of the Parties’ interests and of the differences that separate them.”
The meetings were administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
The Meridian International Centre in Washington D.C. partnered with the U.S. Department of State to fund two officers from the Maritime Boundary Office to participate in a Maritime Boundaries Workshop from 6-8 June at the National University of Singapore. The workshop was organised by the Centre for International Law (CIL) and the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS).
The Conciliation Commission continued exploring the negotiation positions of each Party, Timor-Leste and Australia in order to achieve an agreement in September this year.
The Chairman, Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen acknowledge that, “These are difficult issue for any State, and I am very pleased with how the Parties have approached the meetings.”
The meetings were administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
English Club at Universidade Nasional Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL) invited Maritime Boundary Office to brief them on the progress of the compulsory conciliation between Timor-Leste and Australia. The club comprised of high school students, high schools graduated, and university students from UNTL, Universidade Dili (UNDIL), Dili Institute of Technology (DIT), Institute of Business (IOB), and Universidade Oriental (UNITAL).
The students engaged with the briefing and asked many questions relating to the CMATS termination, median line and on the continental shelf theory.
As a token of their support, the students presented a gift to Maritime Boundary Office, a beautiful wooden-carved crocodile.
H.E. Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo established a strong connection with ACYPL leadership during an official visit to Washington DC in September 2016. Subsequently, the Timor-Leste Government and ACYPL have developed a cooperative partnership to deliver an Educational Exchange Program.
As part of the exchange program, Maritime Boundary Office hosted a delegation of 5 ACYPL guests from the United States from 6 – 11 March 2017. The delegates were Ellie Casson, Office of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, Airbnb; the Honorable James Diossa, Mayor of Central Falls, Rhode Island; the Honorable Aaron Lawlor, Chairman of Lake Country Board, Illinois; Libby Rosenbaum, Interim CEO of ACYPL; and Stacey Walter Fujii, Chairman of ACYPL Board.
The visit provided an opportunity for the delegates to learn about the history of Timor-Leste. They met with the key leaders including H.E. Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, H.E. Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator, H.E. Minister Agio Pereira and H.E. Dr José Ramos-Horta. They also spoke with young political leaders at the National Youth Council (CNJTL), visited the Alola Foundation and travelled to the districts to visit a USAID agricultural project in Atabae and stayed in Balibo.
The delegates were briefed on the significance of the maritime delimitation for Timor-Leste.
As part of the Educational Exchange Program, a delegation of young political leaders from Timor-Leste will visit the United States in Washington in October 2017. The program aims to give young Timorese leaders a hands-on experience of the role that civil society plays in policy making.
Maritime Boundary Office was requested to brief the Protestant Church in Timor-Leste, Sínodo on the progress of the maritime boundary delimitation with Timor-Leste’s two neighbours: Indonesia and Australia.
The community was grateful for the briefing and supportive with their prayers for success.
Maritime Boundary Office attended a fireside chat that was hosted by Professor S Jayakumar and Professor Tommy Koh with Professor Robert Beckman and Dr HaoDuy Phan as panellists. The discussion focused on the Compulsory Conciliation between Timor-Leste and Australia, touching on the specifics of UNCLOS and the law of the sea. The panellists agreed that whilst Conciliation could not serve every dispute, the Conciliation proceedings between Timor-Leste and Australia appeared to be progressing successfully and could have an impact on dispute resolution around the world in the future.
The session attracted 60 participants from diplomats, government officials, businessmen and academics.
For the presentations please visit: https://cil.nus.edu.sg/programmes-and-activities/past-events/unclos-compulsory-conciliation
The Conciliation Commission met with the two Parties: Timor-Leste and Australia. This was part of the Conciliation’s procedures before the Commission’s final report and recommendation in September 2017.
As part of the confidence-building measures that was agreed in October 2016, the two Parties together with the Commission published a joint statement on 9 January 2017 announcing Timor-Leste’s intention to terminate CMATS Treaty. Timor-Leste notified Australia on the following day of its intention and the treaty will be ceased to force on 10 April 2017.
Timor-Leste also dropped the two cases it claimed against Australia at the International Court of Justice on espionage and tax jurisdiction.
Minister Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator represented the Government in presenting the proposal of the resolution on the CMATS termination at the Parliament National. The termination received unanimous votes from the members of the Parliament.
Minister Agio Pereira, Minister Alfredo Pires, President of Timor Gap, President of ANPM and Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Boundary were present at the closed door meeting.
The Centre for International Law (CIL) at the National University of Singapore invited the Maritime Boundary Office (MBO) to attend a conference on “The South China Sea Award: The Legal Dimension” on 5-6 January 2017. The objective of the conference was “to examine the significant legal findings in the Award in order to understand what the Award means for the development of the law of the sea and its implications for future resolutions.” The discussions had a specific legal and academic focus.
For the presentations please visit https://cil.nus.edu.sg/programmes-and-activities/past-events/cil-scs-award-conference
Minister Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator presented to the President of the National Parliament Adérito Hugo da Costa, Vice President, the Chief of Bancadas and the Commission about the progress of the negotiations on maritime boundaries under the Compulsory Conciliation proceedings.
Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, Minister Agio Pereira, Minster Alfredo Pires, President of ANPM, Mr Gualdino da Silva, the Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Boundary Office, Ms Elizabeth Exposto, and the Liaison Officer of Prime Minister for Veterans Affairs, Ms Inês Almeida were present in the meeting.
Following the success of the previous lecture in December 2015, the Maritime Boundary Office was requested to talk to students from Curtin University, Perth, Australia in December 2016.
The Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Elizabeth Exposto presented the history of Timor-Leste including her personal story as a young girl and her contribution to the independence of Timor-Leste. Ms. Exposto also gave a history of the maritime arrangement in the Timor Sea including details of the previous treaties and concluded with an outline of the Compulsory Conciliation that was initiated by Timor-Leste with Australia in April 2016.
The participating students raised various questions relating to regional support, security in the Timor Sea and future prospects for the nation. They said they were compelled by the story and were willing to provide assistance where possible.
To celebrate the 41st anniversary of Timor-Leste’s independence MBO was invited to participate in an exhibition from 24 – 28 November 2016 in Lospalos, Lautem Municipality. MBO was assigned to share a stand with Ministry of Planning and Strategic Investment (MPIE).
More than 900 visitors visited MBO’s stand from different professions and ages.
Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo and Minister Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator briefed the members of the Council for the Final Delimitation of the Maritime Boundaries on the progress of the Compulsory Conciliation with Australia.
On 29 August, Minister Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator, Agio Pereira, Minister of State and Ms Elizabeth Exposto MBO, CEO, as Agent and Deputy Agent, represented Timor-Leste at an open hearing at The Hague. Timor-Leste and Australia both had the opportunity to present their case to the Commission and to the world. Australia challenged the jurisdiction of the Commission, but on 26 September, 2016 the Commission announced that they had decided they did have jurisdiction and would continue with the proceedings. Subsequently, meetings of both parties with the Commission have been held in Singapore in October with more meetings scheduled for early 2017.
Maritime Boundary attended the premier screening of the Time to Draw the Line. The film was a very powerful documentation that presented Australians’ views of where the maritime boundaries between Australia and Timor-Leste should lie. The interviewees were from different professions.
It was produced by Amanda King and Fabio Cavadini of Frontyard Films with Janelle Saffin and Inês Almeida as co-producers.
Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, Minister Xanana Gusmão, Chief Negotiator and Foreign Minister Hernâni Coelho visited the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016.
Prime Minister addressed the General Assembly in New York on 24 September and spoke about the importance of establishing permanent maritime boundaries to Timor-Leste’s economic self-sufficiency. The delegation then visited universities and communities in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Indiana who have strong Portuguese cultural ties and heritage. His Excellency thanked those communities for their solidarity and support during Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence in the 1990s.
Prime Minister Dr Rui Maria de Araújo launched the Timor-Leste Policy Paper on Maritime Boundaries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Dili. The Policy Paper summarizes the relevant principles of the law of the sea and where Timor-Leste’s maritime boundaries would lie under international law. At the launch event, the open hearing of the compulsory conciliation at The Hague was broadcasted live for the audience. The Chief Negotiator launched the Policy Paper on the same day at The Hague.
An Australian women’s group called the Minervas visited sites in Timor-Leste and requested a briefing from the Maritime Boundary Office on the history and background to why Timor-Leste is fighting for its maritime boundaries with its two neighbours.
Maritime Boundary Office was invited to give a short briefing on the progress of the talk on the maritime boundaries with Indonesia and Australia. There were about 50 participants were presents from different municipalities in Timor-Leste.
The communities were very supportive of the government’s decision through their prayers. They have confidence in the Chief Negotiator. However long it will take in this fight, Timor-Leste will get what it’s entitled to under international law.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Maritime Boundary Office, Elizabeth Exposto briefed a delegation from the Laos Ministry of Foreign Affairs about Timor-Leste’s pursuit of maritime boundaries.. The CEO talked about the history of Timor-Leste’s fight for independence and provided an update of the compulsory conciliation process with Australia. The delegation from Laos noted they were impressed that the majority of the MBO are women.
As the new Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy to Timor-Leste, Ms. JL LittleJohn visited Maritime Boundary Office for a briefing on the history and the background to why Timor-Leste is pursuing its maritime boundaries with its two neighbours: Indonesia and Australia.
The Council for the Final Delimitation of the Maritime Boundaries, chaired by the Prime Minister Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo was held today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was to inform the members of the Consultative Commission on the progress of the Compulsory Conciliation with Australia that was initiated by Timor-Leste in April 2016. During the meeting, the Consultative Commission also gave their endorsement to launch the Policy Paper – the document that sets out Timor-Leste’s maritime entitlement under international law.
Maritime Boundary Office attended the 40th Annual Conference of the Centre for Oceans Law & Policy. The two day conference covered various topics including Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea and International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and its contribution to the law of the sea.
For the presentations please visit http://www.virginia.edu/colp/annual-conference.html
The Maritime Boundary Office was invited to attend the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) workshop on 31 May – 2 June 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam.Itwas a continuation of the first EAMF workshopwhich was held in August 2015 in Indonesia.
The theme of the workshop was “International Law and Best Practices in Maritime Boundary Delimitation and Provisional Arrangements of a Practical Nature”.
The panellists featured the world leading experts in the international law of the sea and analysed in great depth the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Articles 74(3) and 83(3) and recent developments related to the international law of the sea. In addition various case studies were scrutinized such as Timor Sea Treaties, Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and East Asian arrangements (Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan).
The event was co-hosted by the US Department of State and Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in collaboration with the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore and Australia, National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong.
On 19 May, 2016, the Timor-Leste Government presented the Dili International Conference: Maritime Boundaries and the Law of the Sea to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The Conference raised international awareness of the role of international tribunals and provided a forum for discussion on current and emerging maritime boundary issues.
Read presentations by:
Judge Vladirmir Golitsyn, President, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
H.E Dr.Rui Maria de Araújo, Prime Minister, Timor-Leste
H.E Minister Dionisio Babo Soares, Minister of State, Coordinator of State Administration Affairs and Justice, Timor-Leste
Ambassador Eddy Pratomo, Special Envoy of the Maritime Boundary Determination, Indonesia
Mr. I Made Andi Arsana, Lecturer in Geodetic and Geomatic Engineering, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia
Ms. Jalila Abdul Jalil, Senior Researcher, Maritime Institute of Malaysia
Dr. Hao Duy Phan, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore
On 13 April Chief Negotiator Xanana Gusmão had a courtesy call with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E Mr. Ban Ki-moon in New York to discuss latest developments in Timor-Leste and inform the Secretary General on the compulsory conciliation notification.
Consultative Commission resumed the meeting on 11 April 2016 chaired by the Prime Minister Dr.Rui Maria de Araújo. The meeting was mainly to discuss the compulsory conciliation notification to the Australian Government relating to maritime boundaries.
Maritime Boundary Office attended a two day seminar on the Timor Sea organised by Monash University Law Chamber and the Anthropology Program in the School of Social Sciences. The seminar looked at national and international perspectives on the maritime boundary dispute among the neighbouring States. It also looked at the impact of maritime resources to the development of Timor-Leste.
On 29 December 2015, the Maritime Boundary Office was invited to present to the veterans in Aramerí, SukuLiurai, Aileu on the progress of the negotiations on the maritime boundaries with Australia and Indonesia.
This was an opportunity for the Maritime Boundary Office to explain the history of the Timor Sea agreements with Australia from 1972 until 2006.
Minister Xanana Gusmão, former President and Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, was awarded a Doctorate of Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Melbourne. Mr Gusmão, who is currently the Minister for Planning and Strategic Investment for Timor-Leste, spoke about a range of issues in his speech, noting that it was 40 years to the day that the occupation of Timor-Leste began.
Minister Gusmão also mentioned maritime boundaries:
Our shared commitment to negotiate maritime boundaries is a recent powerful example of where the path of reconciliation has taken us.
The Government of Timor-Leste has made the permanent delimitation of maritime boundaries a national priority as it is the final step in our long struggle for full sovereignty. Indonesia and Timor-Leste have commenced maritime boundary negotiations and have agreed to abide by the principles set out in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law.
Australia, on the other hand, has refused to negotiate a maritime boundary with Timor-Leste and Timor-Leste cannot refer the issue to be determined by an independent umpire.
This is because in 2002, on the eve of Timor-Leste’s independence, Australia withdrew from the compulsory dispute mechanisms set up under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for any disputes relating to the delimitation of its maritime zones.
And so I look to the new Australian Government to recognise it is in Australia’s national interest to have a clearly defined permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea.
Set against the backdrop of the National Resistance Museum, the Maritime Boundary Office (MBO) was invited to present to a large group of travelling students from Curtin University, Western Australia. We were also honoured that members of the Veterans community and representatives from the Prime Minister’s office also attended the presentation. Elizabeth Exposto (MBO CEO) gave a wide-reaching talk on the history of the Timor Sea disputes and where Timor-Leste is at regarding negotiations with Indonesia and attempts to engage with Australia. The students were clearly passionate about the issue and seemed to grow even more eager once the MBO explained, in plain terms, the history of the Timor Sea and why Timor-Leste is seeking maritime boundaries under international law.
From 30 November to 2 December 2015, the Maritime Boundary Office, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, participated in the London International Boundary Conference with the theme “Exploring an Integrated Approach to International Boundary and Territorial Questions”.
The conference was held as a not-for-profit event and was hosted by Volterra Fietta, King’s College of London (Department of Geography), Marbdy Consulting Ltd and Maritime Zone Solutions Ltd.
The speakers were world leading experts and practitioners in the effective resolution of territorial disputes. Participants came from all over the world and from various professions, including law, academia and diplomacy. The event also included technical workshops.
In November 2015, the Maritime Boundary Office (MBO) was invited to present to the Organisation of the Combatants of the National Resistance (OCRN) at Venilale in Baucau Municipality. CEO of the MBO, Ms Elizabeth Exposto, and Communications and Outreach Officer, Ms Felismina Carvalho dos Reis, spoke at length about Timor-Leste’s pursuit of maritime boundaries and the relevant international law, including the Law of the Sea. The MBO would like to thank OCRN for the opportunity to inform their members about this important national priority.
On 1 October 2015, the Maritime Boundary Office and the International Peace Institute co-chaired a well-attended event with a distinguished panel of speakers including the Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo, Minister Xanana Gusmão and former President Dr José Ramos-Horta, each sharing their insights and emphasising that Timor-Leste’s objective to define permanent maritime boundaries with its neighbours is the next chapter in Timor-Leste’s struggle for sovereignty.
Click here for a copy of Prime Minister’s Rui Maria de Araújo speech
Click here for a copy of Minister Gusmão’s speech
Click here for a copy of Dr Ramos-Horta’s speech
Click here for IPI video
In September 2015, the Prime Minister gave powerful addresses about Timor-Leste’s pursuit of permanent maritime boundaries as a matter of national priority at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University.
The Maritime Boundary Office supported the Timor-Leste delegation to the United Nations in New York, and promoted Timor-Leste’s agenda on maritime boundaries at several side-events, and meetings with key institutions such as the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
On 29 September, the Prime Minister met with Senator George Mitchell, a great American statesman, who shared his thoughts and experience on the resolution of international disputes and conflict.
Professor Vaughan Lowe, Queen’s Counsel, a world-renowned expert in the law of the sea and Emeritus Chichele Professor of Public International Law at Oxford University, presented a lecture and question and answer session on the law of the sea to a public gallery at the National University of Timor-Lorosae (UNTL). The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and provided an opportunity for the Timorese public to gain an understanding of the principles of maritime boundary delimitation and why this is such an important issue for Timor-Leste.
The Consultative Commission of the Timor-Leste Government, formed in 2015, consists of eminent past and present leaders of the nation and advises the Prime Minister on Timor-Leste’s pursuit of its maritime boundaries. The Commission met several times throughout the year.
The Maritime Boundary Office (MBO) was represented at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea’s (ITLOS) 11th regional workshop held in Bali, Indonesia on 27 and 28 August 2015.