Today has seen breaking news regarding East Timor's maritime boundary. An East Timor Government Media Release issued this morning has announced that Timor-Leste has initiated Compulsory Conciliation with Australia under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS.]
They are doing this with an "aim of concluding an agreement with Australia on permanent maritime boundaries."
Australia has certainly made it tough for them by reducing their access to international arbitration after pulling out of the jurisdiction of the ICJ and ITLOS on issues to do with maritime boundaries.
This, it seems, is the only option left under UNLCOS and interestingly is designed to move the process on when one state opts out like Australia has done and then refuses to negotiate.
The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste said:
“Under international law, Australia is obliged to negotiate permanent maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste but it has refused to do so, despite all our invitations. This has left us with only one option,” he said. “This process allows for a commission to assist our two countries to reach an amicable solution on permanent maritime boundaries.”
To find out more about the way the Compulsory Conciliation works check out this one page fact sheet from the Maritime Boundary Office.
Let's hope Australia behaves honorably, participates fully and follows the recommendations of the Conciliation Commission- this will be watched internationally. After the report comes out in around 12 - 18 months there is an obligation to negotiate and agreement in good faith on the basis of the commission's report
What a pity that it has to come to this and East Timor has to spend more of its precious time and money to seek justice on this issue.
Why not come to your senses now Government of Australia and move this forward without this process?
What ever happens East Timor is not going to sit back. As their PM says:
“All Timor-Leste is seeking is a fair and equitable solution and importantly, what we are entitled to under international law,”
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported on this here.