This morning in my inbox was another Joint Statement from the Governments of Timor-Leste and Australia and the Permanent Court of Arbitration [on behalf of the Conciliation Commission.]
It does not contain the big news of the first Joint Statement which came out on the 9th of January and told us Australia would negotiate maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste and CMATS would be terminated.
What is new in this latest statement is the confirmation that CMATS will be no more as of the 10th of April 2017 and that on the 20th of January Timor-Leste wrote to withdraw two arbitration cases it had initiated again Australia under the Timor Sea Treaty. One was the case referred to in the media as the 'espionage case' and the other a less well known case about pipeline jurisdiction.
It seems that the withdrawal of these cases, like Australia's acceptance of the CMATS termination including the 'revival' clauses, is a 'clearing of the decks' for the border negotiation.
I hope so.
The new statement, as seen in the quote above, strengthens the message that the parties are working towards concluding an agreement by the end of the conciliation period in September.
For that to happen Australia is going to have to abandon its outdated continental shelf claim up to the Timor trough and allow the discussion to be guided by international case law - which means starting with with the median line. As set out in our Myth Busting article the median line has been the basis of all Australia's boundaries with a maritime neighbours bar one negotiated in 1972.
It should be the starting point in the Timor Sea.
The Australian Government's acceptance of this principle is what will best demonstrate good faith and make possible an agreement by September.
In the meantime we continue to advocate for the establishment of fair and permanent boundaries between Timor-Leste and Australia.