June 25, 2019 / 2:33 PM / 2 months ago

E.Timor, Australia to ratify maritime, gas deal this year

LISBON, June 25 (Reuters) - East Timor and Australia are set to ratify a maritime border treaty, which regulates how the two countries will share revenue from the offshore Greater Sunrise natural gas field, later this year, East Timor’s foreign minister said.

Dionisio Babo Soares told Reuters on Tuesday the ratification could take place on Aug. 30, the anniversary of a referendum that gave the small Pacific nation, one of the world’s poorest, its long-awaited independence in 1999.

Signed in March 2018, the historic treaty resolved a long-running dispute over the Timor Sea border, which had delayed the development of the Greater Sunrise, which was discovered in 1974 and holds around 5.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Under the deal, East Timor is entitled to 70% of the revenue if the gas is piped to the island or 80% if the gas is piped to Australia for processing.

Australia had sought a boundary aligned with its continental shelf, but East Timor argued the border should lie half way between it and Australia - placing much of the Greater Sunrise field under its control.

But since both nations shook hands on the deal last year, the agreement has been on hold due to “political reasons” in both East Timor and neighbouring Australia, Babo Soares said on the sidelines of a conference in Lisbon.

“Ratification will be a victory for East Timor, for achieving not only national sovereignty but also maritime sovereignty,” he said. “At the moment it’s planned for it to be ratified this year, probably on August 30.”

East Timor’s independence hero and prominent political figure Xanana Gusmao, who was also at the conference in Portugal’s capital, said that conversations with Australia came to an end last week and in August both governments would exchange diplomatic notes, bringing the treaty into force.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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