COMMENTARY 11.01.2017

In a joint statement on Monday (9/1), Timor Leste and Australia have agreed to terminate the agreement on  maritime border in the Timor Gap. Since 10 years ago, the two sides have disputed over boundary waters to the south of Timor Leste. Because no agreement was reached bilaterally, Timor Leste took  the case to the International Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands. As a result, Timor Leste ensure its demands that the agreement named Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) terminated. In a statement  the Australian Government also recognizes the rights of Timor Leste to initiate the termination of the agreement which  will expire three months after the date of announcement. But no specified date of the announcement.

In 2006, Timor Leste and Australia signed a maritime agreement on the Timor Sea. Earlier, in May 2002, the two countries made an agreement on the division of natural resources in Timor Leste. However, they do not have a clear maritime boundary. Therefore, Timor Leste sent a negotiations letter to the UN to determine the maritime boundary. In view of Timor-Leste, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will make the most of the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea in its territory. However Australia withdrew from the Convention.

Australia initially did not want this issue brought to the International Arbitration Court. According to Australia, the Court has no jurisdiction over this case because Australia had signed a bilateral agreement. But Timor Leste urged the Court to help end the dispute, because a series of negotiations only reached an impasse. The Court of International Arbitration (PCA) agreed to adjudicate the dispute and expressed the Court is authorized to process it through the conciliation commission. The Australian Foreign Minister received the commission's decision and would     to follow the next stage of the process.

The Court Conciliation Commission, comprising  5-members, decided  the dispute should be resolved under UNCLOS and did not agree it  is resolved through such an agreement like Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS).

The issue of maritime borders  had been a problem between Indonesia and  Australia when Timor Leste was still called East Timor and was a province of Indonesia. Now, Indonesia is looking at the problem as a bilateral dispute between Timor Leste and Australia and hopes it  could be  resolved through negotiations. Indonesia's interest in this case is to look at the conditions in the region that has always been positive.


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