The legal status of the Greater Sunrise area in the Timor Sea appears to be clearer following a series of successful meetings between the governments of Australia and Timor-Leste.

Greater Sunrise was a major topic of discussions at the conciliation meetings between the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and the Commonwealth of Australia conducted by a Conciliation Commission  pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

The PCA has described the outcome of the meetings as a “breakthrough” in Maritime Boundary Conciliation Proceedings between the two nations.

In a statement, the PCA said that following a series of confidential meetings with the Conciliation Commission in Copenhagen last week, Timor-Leste and Australia have reached agreement on the central elements of a maritime boundary delimitation between them in the Timor Sea.

The Parties’ agreement constitutes a package and, in addition to boundaries, 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 PCA said the Parties and the Commission will now turn to formalising the Parties’ agreement and to addressing a number of remaining issues and points of detail. Until all issues are resolved, the details of the Parties’ agreement will remain confidential.

The leader of Timor-Leste’s delegation, Chief Negotiator and former President Xanana Gusmão, hailed the agreement.

“I thank the Commission for its resolve and skill in bringing the Parties together, through a long and at times difficult process, to help us achieve our dream of full sovereignty and to finally settle our maritime boundaries with Australia. This is an historic agreement and marks the beginning of a new era in Timor-Leste’s friendship with Australia,” Xanana Gusmão said.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Julie Bishop MP, described the final day of negotiations as  “a landmark day in the relationship between Timor-Leste and Australia.”

“This agreement, which supports the national interest of both our nations, further strengthens the long-standing and deep ties between our Governments and our people. I thank the Commission for its role in bringing the Parties together.
The Chairman of the Commission, Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen of Denmark, said the agreements benefit both nations.

“I commend the Parties for being able to reach an equitable and balanced solution that benefits both Timor-Leste and Australia. These negotiations have been challenging, and this agreement has only been possible because of the courage and goodwill shown by leaders on both sides. The key moment in these negotiations transpired on the evening of 30 August, and the significance of that date is not lost on the Commission. Both countries will now look back on this date fondly.”

Next Steps

The Parties will continue to meet with the Commission in order to finalize their agreement in October 2017. At the same time, the Parties will begin to engage with other stakeholders in the Timor Sea regarding the implications of their agreement, in particular with respect to the Greater Sunrise resource.

The Commission will continue to conduct its meetings in a confidential setting in order to provide an environment conducive to maintaining and finalizing the agreement reached in Copenhagen this week. Further public statements will be made from time to time.

Following its engagement with the Parties in October of this year, the Commission will prepare and issue a report on the proceedings as anticipated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.