On the 5th of September Chief Negotiator H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão returned to Timor-Leste to be welcomed by thousands gathered to celebrate the announcement of a breakthrough in the United Nations maritime boundary conciliation between Australia and Timor-Leste.
Minister Gusmão, Timor-Leste’s Chief Negotiator for Maritime Boundaries, was returning from meetings in Copenhagen that concluded on the 30th of August.
On the 1st of September the Permanent Court of Arbitration published a Press Release announcing 'Timor-Leste and Australia have reached agreement on the central elements of a maritime boundary delimitation between them in the Timor Sea'.
In the release Minister Gusmão said:
'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.'
Minister Agio Pereira, the agent of the case, pointed out that
'This agreement was made possible because of the strength and leadership of the father of our nation, the Chief Negotiator, Xanana Gusmão, who worked with the Commission and Australia to secure the political and economic sovereignty of our nation and secure the future of our people. With our joint success at resolving our dispute through this conciliation process, Timor-Leste and Australia hope to have set a positive example for the international community at large.'
The Australian Government was also positive, with Minster for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Julie Bishop MP saying:
'This is 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.'
Agreement for the establishment of a maritime border in the Timor Sea, a move seen as a final step to consolidate national sovereignty, is a great achievement for the team lead by Minister Gusmão. Timor-Leste has approached their dispute with Australia over this issue with respect and choose to use an international mechanism to assist in finding an equitable and amicable resolution.
The agreement has been welcomed by commercial operators in the Timor Sea and enhances Timor’s reputation as a country that has sought to minimize risk and honor its contracts.
The resolution of this longstanding issue will enhance what is already a healthy bilateral relationship and will see further investment and business partnership between Timor-Leste and its neighbour.
Many more details are yet to come, but people welcoming home their Chief Negotiator clearly recognized the major achievement brokered after the year-long conciliation process and enthusiastically celebrated 'a landmark day' for Timor-Leste.