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On 6th March 2018 the Treaty Between Australia and the Democratic Republic of Timor- Leste Establishing Boundaries in the Timor Sea was signed by both parties. The signing of this treaty concludes a long running dispute on delineate the maritime boundaries between the two countries.

Explain and justify your answer to the following question:

Does the maritime boundary agreed between Australia and Timor Leste in March of 2018, follow the internationally accepted ‘three-stage - equidistance/relevant circumstances’ approach?

Background on the Maritime Boundary Treaty

The historical maritime treaty between Australia and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is popularly known as the “Maritime Boundary Treaty”. The treaty has been one of the landmark marine policies to be signed in the recent times. The treaty was signed by the two nations in New York, in front of the United Nations’ Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on the 6th of March, 2018 (Un.org 2018). This discussion will focus on the key aspects of the treaty and how it was important for both the nations. Moreover, this discussion will also help to understand whether the treaty has been signed according to the international guidelines of the equidistant/ relevant circumstances approach of the maritime policies.

The maritime dispute had been existent for a long time with political tensions between the two states over the sharing of the international waters between the two nations. With regards to the maritime limit lines, this new Treaty generally follows the Southern limit of the JPDA (the median line between the shores of the two States), being lined up with Timor-Leste's claims to a middle line approach of settling the debate. With regards to the territory beforehand known as the "JPDA laterals", Timor-Leste has likewise acquired noteworthy concessions from Australia, with the Eastern sidelong line currently going towards the East of the Greater Sunrise flammable gas fields, before moving Northwest and bisecting some portion of the oil stores (Un.org 2018). There is likewise a change to Timor-Leste's situation on the Western horizontal, with the consideration of the Buffalo oilfield in the territory of Timor-Leste selective power. Bits of the Eastern and Western parallel are liable to promote future modification once certain occasions occur.

The Greater Sunrise gas fields – one of the principle purposes of conflict between the two nations – will be known as Special Regime Area represented by Annex B of the Treaty. Inside the Special Regime Area, which compares to the zone which had been delimited in the International Unitisation Agreement, the states are required to exercise their rights together as waterfront States compliant with Article 77 of the Convention.

The revenue from the Gas fields is to be shared by the Australia and Timor-Leste as has been decided in the deal. The clauses are however dependent on the development of the projects in the gas fields. According to the Maritime Boundary Treaty, if the pipelines of the Gas fields are developed according to The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, 70% of the revenue are to be gained by them, while Australia gains only 30%. However, in the reverse case if the pipelines are to be developed by the means of Australia, then 80% of the revenue goes to Timor-Leste, while Australia gains only 20% of the revenue (Un.org 2018).

Key Aspects of the Treaty

The plan for upstream tax collection of Greater Sunrise is to be concurred between the states and the oil organizations presently holding rights over the gas fields. However, downstream tax collection will be applied solely based on the area of the petroleum gas liquefaction infrastructure. Lastly, the tax assessment in accordance with the laws of Timor-Leste will apply to every other action identified with the development and improvement of petroleum in the Special Regime Area.

However, the treaty is a point of interest regarding the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and universal law. The placation that prompted the discussion, under UNCLOS' debate determination strategies, was the first of its kind (Oude-Elferink 1998). As two democratic neighbouring countries, Australia and Timor-Leste have featured the estimation of global law, and especially UNCLOS, in the universal standards based framework. The joint accomplishment through the mollification sets a positive case for both the communities and the universal network.

The treaty is a demonstration of the manner by which global law, specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, strengthens solidness and enables nations to determine debates calmly without compulsion (Spalding et al. 2013). It is a case of the standards based development in action. UNCLOS has supported strength and security in both the nations of Australia and Timor-Leste, and around the globe. Thus, this has taken into account the development of exchange and supportable advancement. With the world's third biggest oceanic Exclusive Economic Zone, it was important for Australia to know how essential these rules and standards are (Dfat.gov.au 2018). That is the reason both Australia and Timor-Leste enduringly upheld the question settlement forms in UNCLOS, paying little attention to the result.

The Treaty builds up changeless oceanic limits amongst Australia and Timor-Leste in the Timor Sea and a stable lawful system for asset development. This will give assurance and soundness to the organizations and financial specialists. The Treaty accommodates the two nations to build up the Greater Sunrise gas fields together and share in the advantages. This perceives both Australia and Timor-Leste have true sovereign rights as beach front states under UNCLOS (Maritime Boundary Office 2018). The Treaty will bolster Timor-Leste's monetary improvement by giving new chances to pay and business and mechanical advancement. Seventy or eighty per cent of income from Greater Sunrise will stream to Timor-Leste, depending upon how the asset is created. The settlement maintains Australia's duty to global guidelines and strengthens tranquil debate determination standards, particularly through the UNCLOS.

Revenue Sharing and Gas Fields

The three stages of the equidistant or circumstance approach of the UNCLOS are (Supulveda 2012):

  • Draw a temporary equidistant line (somewhere between physical construct indicates with respect the pertinent beach line of each State)
  • Modify the equidistant line if any pertinent condition occurs, (for example, the nearness of islands, the impact of sunken or arched beach line and the uniqueness in drift measurements, among different conditions)
  • Watch that the balanced temporary equidistance line does not have a lopsided impact (with regards to the separate delimited oceanic regions and the measurement of each State's beach line)

States which are adhering to the UNCLOS are hereby, obliged to achieve an understanding of maritime policies by transaction on perpetual oceanic limits with their neighbouring countries where they have been contending cases for Exclusive Economic Zones. Similarly, the oceanic limits apply, where the states are separated by a distance under 400 nautical miles, just like in the case of Timor-Leste and Australia, and also that of Timor-Leste and Indonesia or mainland rack rights (Geng 2012). UNCLOS sets out the standards for the delimitation of mainland rack and the Exclusive Economic Zones that lies between States with inverse or nearby drifts. Be that as it may, it was left to the decision of the International Court of Justice and also that of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. These two primary question settlement bodies under the jurisdiction of UNCLOS determine the procedure for delimiting the limit between two States (Bo 2012). These bodies have refined the managing standards for how States are to delimit their sea limits, since UNCLOS was marked in 1982 and became effective in 1994.

Australia pulled back from worldwide maritime boundary debate two months before Timor-Leste had ended up the maritime policy in 2002 to keep away from legitimate responsibility. In any case, they ignored a never-utilized system in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, marked in 1982, approved by Australia in 1994 and by Timor-Leste in 2013). UNCLOS Article 298 and Annex V portray a necessary pacification process through which one country can bring an unwilling neighbour into a meeting over the policies. This meeting is to be encouraged by a group of master "conciliators" selected by the two sides, under United Nations protection (Lakisevic-Duravonic B 2017). However, the conciliators have no power to settle the restricting choices. It is their duty to listen to both sides and ask them to resolve according to the best available policies.

Timor-Leste started this procedure in April 2016 and, in spite of the fact that Australia at first opposed, they acknowledged it by September. Towards the beginning of the appeasement, each side expressed its claim. The conciliators began like marriage mentors, independently tuning in to each gathering's needs and concerns and transferring them to the next gathering, while the two sides sat in isolated rooms. The procedure took 18 months, with 13 arranging sessions in six urban areas on four landmasses (Maritime Boundary Office 2018). In August 2017, Australia and Timor-Leste conceded to the general frameworks of a limit and got the oil organizations to help choose how Greater Sunrise would be created. In spite of the fact that that inquiry stays uncertain, the Boundary Treaty was marked on 6 March 2018 and is pending confirmation (Foreignminister.gov.au 2018).

International Guidelines and Equidistant/ Relevant Circumstances

Researchers and members in accordance with the policies agreed for settling global debate and elated that the appeasement component. This decision lay dormant for over three decades and has been demonstrated by its value. By and by, Timor-Leste has left a mark on the world.  

Conclusion:

In spite of the fact that placation was under UNCLOS arrangements and the result follows the Law of the Sea, the Boundary Treaty is certifiably not a legitimate decision passed on by a court or judge. It developed through strategic give-and-take by every administration, who contended in view of their political, lawful, financial and authentic inclinations. In spite of the fact that the conciliators encouraged the arrangements and supported consistence with worldwide law, all choices were made by the two governments. The last limit bargain reflects Timor-Leste's middle line guarantee for the southern piece of the limit putting all oil containing territories of the JPDA into Timor-Leste's region, while attracting lines between the two countries' cases for the parallel limits on the two sides. It portrays every nation's seabed and water segment ("Exclusive Economic Zone - EEZ") regions, in spite of the fact that Timor-Leste's eastern and western water segment limits are still to be consulted with Australia.

References:

Bo, Q.U., 2012. On Status of Historic Right in the UNCLOS [J]. Journal of Northeast Normal University (Philosophy and Social Sciences), 3, p.010.

Dfat.gov.au 2018. [online] Dfat.gov.au. Available at: https://dfat.gov.au/geo/timor-leste/Documents/treaty-maritime-arrangements-australia-timor-leste.pdf [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Foreignminister.gov.au 2018. Australia and Timor-Leste sign maritime boundary treaty. [online] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Available at: https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2018/jb_mr_180307.aspx [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Geng, J., 2012. The legality of foreign military activities in the exclusive economic zone under UNCLOS. Merkourios-Utrecht J. Int'l & Eur. L., 28, p.22.

Lakisevic-Duravonic, B 2017, 'Theoretical and practical significance of the issue of maritime delimitation in the law of the sea', Transactions on Maritime Science, vol. 6, no.2, pp 125-129.

Maritime Boundary Office 2018. Law of the Sea - Maritime Boundary Office. [online] Maritime Boundary Office. Available at: https://www.gfm.tl/learn/the-law-of-the-sea/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Oude-Elferink, A.G. 1998, 'Clarifying Article 121(3) of the Law of the Sea Convention: The Limits Set by the Nature of International Legal Processes', IBRU Boundary & Security Bulletin, vol. 6, no.2, pp 58-68

Spalding, M.D., Meliane, I., Milam, A. and Fitzgerald, C., 2013. Protecting Marine Space: Global Targets and Changing Approaches. Ocean YB, 27, p.213.

Supulveda Amor, B 2012, International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r29686.pdf

Un.org 2018. Note to Correspondents: Signing of a maritime boundaries treaty between Australia and Timor-Leste | United Nations Secretary-General. [online] Un.org. Available at: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/note-correspondents/2018-03-06/note-correspondents-signing-maritime-boundaries-treaty [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

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[Accessed 21 May 2024].

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