Australia: Tri­bunal has no say on East Ti­mor bor­der

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AUSTRALIA will ar­gue that an ar­bi­tra­tion body meet­ing in The Hague has no ju­ris­dic­tion to set­tle a dis­pute with East Ti­mor over their mar­itime bound­ary, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

East Ti­mor, a tiny na­tion whose econ­omy de­pends heav­ily on oil and gas ex­ports, has been de­mand­ing that Australia rene­go­ti­ate the bor­der which cuts through lu­cra­tive oil and gas fields in the Ti­mor Sea.

For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop con­firmed Australia would take part in the meet­ing of the con­cil­i­a­tion com­mis­sion, which is part of the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion.

East Ti­mor had de­manded that the meet­ing be held un­der the terms of the UN’s Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea.

“We will ar­gue that the com­mis­sion does not have ju­ris­dic­tion to con­duct hear­ings on mar­itime bound­aries,” Ms Bishop said in a joint state­ment with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis.

Australia would abide by the com­mis­sion’s find­ing “as to whether it has ju­ris­dic­tion to hear mat­ters on mar­itime bound­aries”.

But the state­ment added that Australia did not con­sider its fi­nal re­port would be bind­ing.

“If the com­mis­sion ul­ti­mately finds that it does have ju­ris­dic­tion to hear mat­ters on mar­itime bound­aries, then its fi­nal re­port on that mat­ter is not bind­ing,” the min­is­ters said.

Australia says it is com­mit­ted to up­hold­ing ex­ist­ing treaty obli­ga­tions with East Ti­mor, which it says have ben­e­fited both coun­tries.

Can­berra says its cur­rent treaties with the tiny state are legally bind­ing and in full ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law.

But East Ti­mor has accused Australia of spy­ing to gain a com­mer­cial ad­van­tage dur­ing 2004 ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Ti­mor Sea gas treaty, which cov­ers a vast gas­field be­tween the two na­tions worth bil­lions of dol­lars. It wants the pact torn up.

Australia al­legedly used an aid pro­gram as cover to bug East Ti­mor’s cab­i­net of­fices so it could lis­ten to dis­cus­sions about the treaty.

The agree­ment was signed be­tween Can­berra and Dili in 2006, four years af­ter East Ti­mor – with

Aus­tralian help – won in­de­pen­dence fol­low­ing years of bru­tal In­done­sian oc­cu­pa­tion.

East Ti­mor of­fi­cially dropped its spy­ing case against Australia be­fore the UN’s In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice in June 2015, af­ter Can­berra re­turned sen­si­tive doc­u­ments.

But the par­al­lel case be­fore the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion, the old­est global in­sti­tu­tion for the set­tle­ment of in­ter­na­tional dis­putes, con­tin­ues. –

Photo: EPA

Julie Bishop will ar­gue the case for Australia.

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