“I am optimistic about an agreement in 2024,” Mr. Gusmao said.
East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is confident that a deal to finalize an agreement with Australia over the Greater Sunrise gas and oil project will be reached by early 2024.
The Greater Sunrise field in the Timor Sea has been a source of contention between both countries as East Timor (or Timor-Leste) pushes for gas and oil in the Greater Sunrise fields to be redirected from Darwin to his country’s south coast.
“I am optimistic about an agreement in 2024,” Mr. Gusmao said. “I am confident with this new Australian government.”
On Aug. 31, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the Greater Sunrise is an “extremely important project” for East Timor that has been stalled for years.
Ms. Wong said she told President Jose Ramos Horta that Australia needed to “unstick it.”
During a diplomatic visit to East Timor’s capital in July, Ms. Wong said the Albanese government recognized the Greater Sunrise project as “unfinished business,” and acknowledged the past negotiation disputes over the maritime boundary in the Greater Sunrise gas fields.
Past Maritime Boundary Dispute
In 2016, East Timor launched a conciliatory process against Australia over the maritime boundary dispute before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
It was alleged that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service installed listening devices in East Timor’s cabinet room in 2004 to gain an advantage in the negotiations on the maritime boundaries. The Turnbull government attempted to block the conciliation process.
“The Australian government should not have formally challenged the competence of the conciliation commission when a broader, more understanding approach was needed that reflected the unique relationship we had with such a close neighbour,” Ms. Wong said.
“It was not in the spirit of our friendship, from our struggle together in World War II to our support for your young nation after independence.”
First discovered in 1974, the Greater Sunrise fields are located approximately 450 kilometres northwest of Darwin and 150 kilometres south of Timor-Leste. It is estimated to be worth around $70 billion (US$50 billion) holding around 226 million barrels of gas.