Conciliation Crunch Time?

Most would know that East Timor's parliamentary election was conducted last weekend [22nd of July] and that it went very well. The reports from all the independent international election monitors are very positive and say that it was calm and well organised.

You may also know that it was a very tight outcome. The Fretilin party and the CNRT party of Xanana Gusmão received the lion's share of the vote and are expected to have 23 and 22 seats respectively in the 65 seat parliament with the other seats shared between three other parties. In the end, after about 540,000 voters made their choice, there was only a little over 1,000 votes separating the two parties!

Provisional Results as at 24/7/17

Provisional Results as at 24/7/17

That is why what happened next was unusual.

Social media was abuzz with news that Xanana Gusmão had left the country after the election.

Not exactly what you would expect from a 'founding father' who has been careful to promote a sense of calm around the electoral process. The suggestion was that he had gone to a meeting on the maritime boundary issue. 

Could this mean it is 'crunch time' in the UN conciliation?

It is certainly no secret that we are moving to the pointy end of the process.

We know that the Commissioners must be 'under the pump' to get a good result and then document it all in the report they are to have finished by the 19th of September. Ready for delivery to the Secretary General of the UN.

After all they are literally making history - the first time ever this process has been used under UNCLOS. Will it be a success? A triumph of the international rules based order we hear about from Bishop, Turnbull etc?

That deadline my friends is only a little over 8 weeks away - for the delivery of a report that according to the relevant articles in UNCLOS Annex V will:

"...record any agreements reached and, failing agreement, its conclusions on all questions of fact or law relevant to the matter in dispute and such recommendations as the commission may deem appropriate for an amicable settlement. The report shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and shall immediately be transmitted by him to the parties to the dispute."

Perhaps in the next days we will see one of those Press Releases pop up from the Permanent Court of Arbitration. They look after the administrative work of the Commissioners. The next one will be Press Release No 8. If there is one what is the tone of that going to be?

I emailed at the beginning of this process to ask them to add me to an email list for anything coming up on the Timor-Leste Australia Conciliation. Now those releases come to my in box hot off the press! Easy. Why not do it too?

Surely Australia is now agreeing to a maritime boundary based on the median line with appropriate adjustments that would be expected to be made under international law?

If not we will call out their hypocrisy.  

Despite Bishop's persistent reminder that the outcome is not binding the story does not end with the report - the obligation is still there to resolve - but that is for another blog post!

I hope we see a conclusion once and for all - enough! An agreement in the report that amicably resolves the dispute, reduces the chasm between our words and our actions, and is something that we Aussies can be proud of. 

May this process in UNCLOS work!

Keep watching, keep up the pressure.