- Our Boundaries
Welcome to MBO’s site!
As a maritime nation, our waters are integral to our way of life. The seas have a spiritual significance to us. By legend, the Timorese are the grandchildren of the crocodile – upon its death, its body became the land of Timor, the ridges on its back became the mountains and the valleys, and the oceans its final resting place.
Timor-Leste has two very large maritime neighbours, Indonesia and Australia. After restoring our independence in 2002 Timor-Leste did not have permanent maritime boundaries with either neighbour.
After years of trying and failing, and trying and failing again, to start a serious dialogue on maritime boundaries with Australia, in 2016 we turned to compulsory conciliation.
The compulsory conciliation was the last resort we had – designed for countries like ours where a neighbour refuses to negotiate bilaterally but has also withdrawn from the binding dispute resolution mechanisms under UNCLOS.
The compulsory conciliation process had never been used before and came with no guarantees of success. But, the international system had delivered for us once before, and we were determined to try again, by trusting in the power of justice.
Securing our sovereign rights over our maritime areas will be the end of Timor-Leste’s long struggle for sovereignty. We will then finally be able to enjoy in peace and dignity the rich and beautiful seas that are rightfully ours.
After 18 months, we managed to reach agreement with Australia and in March of 2018 we signed a Treaty at the headquarters of the United Nations witnessed by Secretary-General Guterres. The Treaty was ratified on 30 August 2019 in Dili with an exchange of diplomatic notes between the Prime Ministers of Timor-Leste and Australia.
This is an historic agreement and marks the beginning of a new era in Timor-Leste’s friendship with Australia.
We may be a small country but we believe that this success reinforces the strength of the rules-based international order of the Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal architecture which protects the world’s oceans.
With the finalisation of our maritime boundary with Australia, Timor-Leste now has to achieve permanent maritime boundaries with Indonesia. Discussions between Timor-Leste and Indonesia have already commenced and, importantly, both countries have agreed that the position of the boundary should be negotiated in accordance with international law.
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
This website is hosted by the Maritime Boundary Office of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries to allow readers to learn more about Timor-Leste’s pursuit of permanent maritime boundaries. The Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries and the Maritime Boundary Office do not accept any legal liability for any reliance placed on any information contained in this website (including external links). The information provided is a summary only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The information and views expressed in this website and in any linked information do not constitute diplomatic representations and do not limit or otherwise affect the rights of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries, the Maritime Boundary Office or the Government of Timor-Leste. The views expressed in any linked information do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council for the Final Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries, the Maritime Boundary Office or the Government of Timor-Leste.
GFM is the acronym for “Gabinete das Fronteiras Marítimas”, which is the Portuguese translation of Maritime Boundary Office.