Dili, 17 May 2002


SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello today praised the international peacekeeping force for creating the necessary conditions of peace and tranquillity to allow East Timor to rebuild and move towards its imminent independence.

“We are on the cusp of an extraordinary event – only two-and-a-half days from now the sun will rise on the new nation of East Timor. Just over two-and-a-half years ago, this country suffered the terrible destruction in the aftermath of the Popular Consultation,” the SRSG said at a military ceremony held in his honour in Dili.

“In short, your work as peacekeepers has served as a testament to the good that those with arms can do, in marked contrast to those responsible for a conflict that lasted a quarter century and for the devastation of September 1999,” the SRSG added.

The SRSG said that UNTAET’s successor mission, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), would face new and different challenges in the future, but that its 5,000-strong military component “will face them with the same dedication and professionalism that I have been privileged enough to witness over the last two and a half years.”

The farewell, held outside the Government headquarters in Dili, was also attended by Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta, and Deputy SRSG Dennis McNamara, among others.

The SRSG then met with UNTAET civilian staff in Dili to thank them for their contributions to the UN effort in East Timor since 1999.

De Mello is scheduled to leave East Timor on 21 May and will be replaced as SRSG by Kamalesh Sharma, the former permanent representative of India to the United Nations.


Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri today announced that negotiations have been concluded with Australia on the implementation of the Timor Sea Treaty.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Chief Minister said that the negotiations were completed yesterday, after which the Council of Ministers approved the treaty text and related documents. The Timor Sea Treaty will be signed by Alkatiri and Australian Prime Minister John Howard on 20 May and then submitted to East Timor’s National Parliament for ratification.

The Council of Ministers yesterday also approved maritime legislation for submission to East Timor’s National Parliament on 20 May.

The text of Chief Minister Alkatiri’s statement is as follows:

“I am pleased to announce that negotiations were concluded yesterday with Australia on the implementation of the Timor Sea Treaty. Yesterday afternoon the Council of Ministers approved the Treaty text and related documents.

The Australian Prime Minister and I will sign the Treaty the day of international recognition of East Timor’s independence, 20 May 2002. The Treaty must then be ratified by East Timor’s National Parliament and by Australia before it comes into force.

We will also sign an Exchange of Notes on provisional arrangements until the Treaty enters into force. This gives effect to our right to tax 90% of petroleum activity in the Joint Area from 20 May and so secures our budget framework. Australia and East Timor have also undertaken to work quickly towards full ratification of the Treaty.

I am delighted, too, that the Australian Government has indicated its approval of the Bayu-Undan Understandings, permitting the full gas phase of this project to go ahead. We will sign a memorandum of understanding with Australia on future work towards the Sunrise project.

The Treaty is an arrangement enabling important petroleum developments in the Timor Sea to go ahead. Revenues from oil and gas in the Joint Petroleum Development Area will be split with 90% going to East Timor and 10% to Australia. This assures East Timor of vital revenue flows, especially from the one major project in the area that is already approved – Bayu Undan.

The Treaty is not a maritime boundary delimitation, and does not prejudice our maritime claims; it simply creates an interim framework for oil and gas investment in one part of the Timor Sea while negotiations on our maritime boundary claims proceed with neighbouring countries. Though East Timor expects its neighbours to enter into boundary negotiations without delay, these negotiations will inevitably take time and, without the Treaty, the uncertainty would deter investment.

Yesterday the Council of Ministers also approved East Timor’s draft Maritime Legislation for submission to Parliament. Upon Independence Day the Parliament will be invited to adopt the Maritime Legislation and make clear East Timor’s sovereign claims as a basis for starting amicable negotiations with our neighbours on all overlapping maritime boundary claims. The Legislation is consistent with international law and is a normal step for any newly independent country which has no maritime boundaries.

These are major steps for East Timor, building blocks of our sovereignty and economic future. They create the framework for good relations with our neighbours and, in particular, with Australia.”

Please note that the UNTAET Press Office will be producing Briefing Notes on Saturday 18 May and Sunday 19 May to cover the events surrounding independence.