The following open letter regarding the Timor Sea oil dispute was initiated by the Timor Sea Justice Campaign on February 23 and is intended to respond to the next round of negotiations between East Timor and Australia on March 7-9 in Canberra.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, address this letter to those representatives of our government who will negotiate with representatives of the government of East Timor about maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea.
We strongly believe that the positions you take to these meetings should reflect the views of the people of Australia, the people you represent, and our values of fairness and equity.
East Timor is a country recovering from the ravages of war, with high levels of poverty, malnutrition and infant mortality. Natural resources lying in the Timor Sea, resources which under international law lie within East Timor's exclusive economic zone, could be an invaluable source of revenue for East Timor.
With their just share of Timor Sea oil and gas revenues, our new neighbours will be able to overcome starvation, illiteracy and preventable disease. To this end, we firmly request that you:
- Conclude a prompt, fair and equitable settlement that reflects all of East Timor's entitlements under current principles of international law.
- Agree to set the boundaries between the two nations along the median line, halfway between the coastlines of East Timor and Australia, and with equitable lateral boundaries.
- Stop unilaterally exploiting contested areas until a just settlement is reached.
- Place the proceeds Australia has taken from contested petroleum fields into a trust account, pending the settlement of the Timor Sea dispute.
While we recognise the dire need East Timor has for revenue, we understand that this is not a matter of charity, but one of justice.
As neighbours, East Timor and Australia have close ties. Thousands of East Timorese were killed helping Australian troops in the Second World War. In 1999, Australian troops were able to return the favour with the deployment of Interfet after the historic ballot for independence.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, want our government to build on this goodwill between the two nations, respecting the sovereignty of East Timor and the human rights of its people.
From Green Left Weekly, March 2, 2005.
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