On Monday, East Timor asked the United Nations to begin the process of establishing a permanent maritime boundary with Australia in the Timor Sea. In an email interview, Clinton Fernandes, a professor at the University of New South Wales Canberra, discussed Australia’s ties with East Timor and the border dispute.
WPR: What is the background to the current agreement on maritime boundaries between Australia and East Timor, and what changes is East Timor seeking to make to the agreement?
Clinton Fernandes: In 1972, Australia negotiated a maritime boundary with Indonesia that granted it the lion’s share of oil and gas resources in the seabed, but which did not determine the boundary with East Timor, at the time a Portuguese colony. Indonesia subsequently invaded and annexed East Timor in 1975, and in 1989 signed a provisional regime with Australia to explore and exploit petroleum resources in the Timor Sea. Revenues were shared equally within a “zone of cooperation.”