|Timor Gap negotiations
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Negotiations to determine seabed boundaries and ownership of the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea have been long-running between Australia and its northern neighbours - previously Indonesia and now independent East Timor. But despite reports of agreement being near, it appears the issue of permanent maritime boundaries will again be deferred.
Creating the Timor Gap
Australia and Indonesia sign an agreement setting seabed boundaries in the area of the Timor and Arafura Seas. (The Arafura Sea is east of the Timor sea, between northern Australia and New Guinea.) In accordance with international law of the time, the boundary is set at the edge of Australia's continental shelf which is only 40 nautical miles from the coast of then Portuguese Timor.
East Timor invasion
Indonesia invades and annexes East Timor.
Australia formally recognises Indonesia's claim over East Timor and negotiations on a maritime boundary in the area of the Timor Gap begin. Agreement is not reached.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is finalised.
The Timor Gap Treaty
Unable to agree on permanent seabed boundaries between East Timor and Australia, the Jakarta and Hawke governments sign the Timor Gap Treaty allowing resources in the area to be exploited without prejudicing any future boundary negotiations between the two countries.
Portugal does not accept the validity of the Timor Gap Treaty contesting its legality in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. But the ICJ dismisses the case in 1995 because it involves a third country, Indonesia, which does not recognise the court's jurisdiction.
Vote for independence
East Timor votes for independence and United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) is formed. UNTAET replaces Indonesia as party to the Timor Gap Treaty.
Timor Gap Treaty declared illegal
UNTAET and the East Timor Transitional Administration (ETTA) declare the 1989 Timor Gap treaty illegal on the grounds that Indonesia was an illegal occupier of the territory.
Joint Petroleum Development Area
Australia and UNTAET sign a Memorandum of Understanding of Timor Sea Arrangement (MOU) in anticipation of a new Timor Gap Treaty between Australia and East Timor when full independence occurs in May 2002.
Australia withdraws from ICJ
Two months before East Timor gains independence, Australia withdraws from the section of the ICJ that deals with maritime boundary disputes in a move critics regard as indicative of Australia's weak position under international law.
On the day East Timor gains full independence, 20 May 2002, the Timor Sea Treaty (TST) is signed between the governments of Australia and East Timor in Dili.
One of the first acts passed by the new East Timor Parliament is the Maritime Zones Act, which sets East Timor's sovereign maritime zones in a 200 nautical mile radius from the coastline. This claim overlaps with Australia's claim in the Timor Sea.
Greater Sunrise field
In March, the governments of East Timor and Australia sign an International Unitisation Agreement (IUA) to determine the taxation regime for the Greater Sunrise Field. (Because the Greater Sunrise deposit falls within both the JDPA and the Australian zone, the IUA is necessary to determine how to develop the deposit as one unit.)
Boundary talks begin
Regular talks on maritime boundaries and disputed reserves between Australia and East Timor begin in April 2004. While East Timor requests monthly talks, Australia agrees to biannual meetings.
Agreement nears on Greater Sunrise field
On conclusion of another round of boundary talks in May, Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says the two countries are on the "threshold of an agreement" worth billions of dollars.
In December, in an eighth round of negotiations, East Timor and Australia resolve their two-year dispute over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.
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