OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Australian Bishops call for generosity in Timor Sea talks with regard to development of undersea oil and gas

Friday, 13 May 2005

Sydney (Fides Service) - Following the resumption in Brisbane of talks between East Timor and Australia on the development of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference has appealed to the Australian government to be generous in its negotiations with East Timor.
The talks follow significant progress in negotiations between the two countries in April.
In issuing the statement the Australian Bishops supported the East Timorese Bishops who recently stated their country’s urgent need for financial resources for future development. They asked the Australian government to treat their country generously and fairly. They said that east Timor has been a “close friend of Australia in the past and Australia generously responded to this friendship in recent years when the nation sought independence. It is important that this generosity should continue in present negotiations on oil and gas resources, so that this small neighbouring country may continue to pursue the development it so urgently needs”.
East Timor is one of the poorest countries in Asia and it relies on international aid. An estimated 80 of the population is unemployed. Gas a oil in Timor Sea are a precious resource. In 1989 when East Timor was still part of Indonesia, Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Treaty to divide the resources. After independence East Timor and Australia signed Timor Sea Treaty which gave East Timor 90% of the area but only a fraction of the undersea riches.
The Democratic Republic of East Timor came into being officially on 20 May 2002, after a period of UN administration. The population of 880,000 is 95% Catholic.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/5/2005 righe 26 parole 277)