East Timor: Timor Sea accord initialled; Fréchette completes 4-day visit

East Timor: Timor Sea accord initialled; Fréchette completes 4-day visit

A breakthrough treaty between East Timor and Australia on resources in the Timor Sea was endorsed by senior officials in Dili today at a ceremony attended by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette and other dignitaries.

The Arrangement on the Timor Sea, which was under negotiation since March 2000, gives East Timor 90 per cent of the oil and gas revenues in the area, according to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

East Timor's Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea, Peter Galbraith, who initialled the Arrangement together with the Cabinet Member for Economic Affairs, Mari Alkatiri, called the treaty "one of the most important legacies of the transitional period."

"It will not make the people of East Timor rich, but it will give them a chance, if their elected leaders spend the proceeds wisely, to escape the poverty in which so many are mired," Mr. Galbraith told the large audience present at the signing ceremony.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, who initialled the Arrangement along with the Minister for Industry Nick Minchin, called the signing "a great day for Australia."

Mr. Downer said that the bonds between Australia and East Timor were underpinned by their geographical proximity. "We are determined that the Timor Sea should be a unifying factor, linking Australia and East Timor, not separating us," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Fréchette today wrapped up a four-day official visit to the territory aimed at ensuring maximum coordination of UN activities in East Timor. She held a number of high-level encounters today, including a meeting with Mr. Downer, as well as discussions with East Timor's Cabinet Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Ramos Horta and UNTAET Chief Sergio Vieira de Mello.

In another development, UNTAET announced today that Japan had donated $1.2 million to finance part of the election support package by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for East Timor. The contribution will help efforts to coordinate international observer groups and train national election officers. The funds will also provide technological support for the Independent Electoral Commission and help promote the ongoing Civic Education campaign.