On September 1, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (as a registry for a conciliation commission established under UN the Convention on Law of the Sea or UNCLOS) announced that Timor-Leste and Australia have agreed on the central elements of a maritime boundary delimitation in the Timor Sea. The ‘package’ agreement would address the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field (and the establishment of a Special Regime to manage it) as well as a pathway to the development of the resource and the sharing of the resulting revenue.
The compulsory non-binding conciliation process was enacted in April of 2016--the first time in UNCLOS history--after the Timorese government terminated the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) with Australia. This treaty, along with the 2003 International Unitization Agreement for the Greater Sunrise, was designed to establish a framework for the joint development of the contested gas field while placing a 50-year moratorium on permanent maritime delimitation.
Despite the breakthrough, the conciliation process will still continue. The parties have yet to formalize the agreement and several issues remain to be negotiated. They will continue to meet with the commission and all the details of the agreement will remain confidential until then.
The long and complicated history between Timor-Leste and Australia over the Timor Sea offers two salient lessons for contemporary maritime order in Asia.