Indonesia and Timor Leste sign agreement to complete land border issues - Photo: VOA Indonesia.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesia and Timor Leste sign an agreement to complete borderline issues between two countries, the two senior officials said on Monday (07/23). Both countries are ready to begin the next phase of borderline talks next year.

As Asia’ youngest nation, Timor Leste seeks to consolidated its sovereignty 20 years after an independence referendum.

The agreement is the basis for determining maritime boundary deal between the two countries, said Coordinating Political, Security and Legal Affairs Minister Wiranto, following his meeting with Timor Leste’ first president Xanana Gusmao, who now acts as its chief maritime boundary negotiator and special oil and gas representative.

“In the meeting, which was held in a friendly atmosphere, we have agreed on the settlement of two unresolved borders – the Noel Besi-Citrana and Bidjael Sunan-Oben segments,” Wiranto told reporters at his office in Jakarta.

Noel Besi-Citrana is an area in East Nusa Tenggara’ Kupang regency that borders on Oecusse-Ambeno, part of the East Timor region, while Bidjael Sunan-Oben is located near Manusasi, a village in North Central Timor regency. These segments took longer to be agreed upon because of various horizontal conflicts and customary disputes.

“With the completion of the negotiations for these unresolved segments, we can say that all land boundary negotiations are in principle complete and we will continue with the maritime boundaries,” Wiranto said.

The minister also said there were some technical arrangements for several pockets of Timorese land, including Batugade and Motaain, as well as for the border between Passabe subdistrict and Kupang’s Haumeni’ana. He did not elaborate on the details, but later segment in the south of the Oecusse exclave, is partly divided along a road that is shared by the two neighbors.

All of these agreements would be finalized in an upcoming senior officials consultation forum and are to be included in the second addendum to the 2005 boundary agreement and later in a “comprehensive agreement” between the two sides, said the minister.

Monday’ meeting, rife with historical connotations, comes off the back of years of negotiations and just as Timor Leste prepares to ratify a separate high-profile maritime boundary treaty with Australia that includes rights to the resource-rich Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea.

Jakarta and Dili have been negotiating their land borders since 2002, soon after Timor Leste formalized its independence following a United Nations-supervised referendum held in 1999.

Wiranto and Gusmao were on opposing sides back then, the former as the commander of the Indonesian armed forces in charge of withdrawing troops after the referendum and the latter leading the resistance against Indonesia and lobbying for independence at the UN.

In the process, Wiranto became accused of condoning alleged human rights abuses committed by Indonesian soldiers, while Gusmao eventually became the country’ first president.

Timor Leste celebrates the 20 years since the independence referendum on Aug. 30. Meanwhile, Gusmao said sooner was better for both sides to delve into maritime boundary talks.

Since gaining independence, the country has had no clear maritime boundary arrangements with Indonesia, both in the Wetar Strait and the Alor Islands in the north and with Kupang in the south.

Over the two decades that followed, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Timor Leste Sahat Sitorus said there had been little in the way of conflict, even in the fisheries sector.

“There were one or two cases of traditional fishermen from either country crossing what was considered the maritime boundary, but no one was detained,” he told reporters on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry’ legal affairs and international treaties director-general, Damos Agusman, added that the maritime boundary delimitation talks would also be done in segments, although the two countries have yet to decide which segments to discuss first.

Written by Willy Matrona, Email: theinsiderstories@gmail.com