Thursday, December 5, 2013

East Timor seeks to scrap oil treaty with Australia

East Timor is seeking nullification of the 2006 treaty, known as CMATS ('certain maritime arrangements in the Timor Sea'). It was signed by then-foreign minister Alexander Downer and his East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta, and came into force the next year.

CMATS divided revenue 50:50 between the two countries from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field, where they both claim sovereign rights, about 150km south of East Timor and 450km north-west of Darwin. It contains an estimated $40-50 billion worth of oil and gas.

However, East Timor wants the deal to be wound back, after a whistleblower revealed that Australia's spy agency ASIS planted microphones in the Timorese Cabinet room in 2004 while the deal was being negotiated.

East Timor argues that Australia broke international law.

On Monday ASIO raided the Canberra office of former ACT attorney-general Bernard Collaery, a lawyer acting for East Timor in The Hague, and also raided the alleged whistleblower's home.
The whistleblower was detained for some hours, and his passport cancelled.

In 2014 the parties will exchange written pleadings, and there will be an oral hearing later in the year.

On Thursday the ABC reported that the raid came after East Timor revealed the existence of three more whistleblowers, possibly connected to the bugging operation, who had also given statements about it.

If the raid was triggered by information that came out of the arbitration, it may provide legal grounds for demanding the return of all material seized in the raid, the ABC reported.

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