Timor-Leste withdraws China card in energy talks with Australia

East Timor’s President Jose Lamas-Horta has used China as a bargaining chip in his negotiations with the Australian government over the construction of a gas pipeline from the resource-rich Timor Sea.

The president said his country would expedite the development of a pipeline from the Greater Sunrise gas field project if Australia’s Woodside Energy preferred to supply gas directly through the northern Australian city of Darwin. He said he would be happy to seek help from China for this purpose.

The Greater Sunrise Field is located approximately 450 kilometers northwest of Darwin and approximately 150 kilometers south of East Timor. It is estimated to be worth about $70 billion (US$50 billion) and holds about 226 million barrels of gas.

This has been an ongoing dispute between the Australian and Timorese governments since 2004.

Ramos-Horta said his government sees the pipeline as part of the country’s national strategic objectives.

“East Timor will favorably consider partnerships with Chinese investors if other development partners refuse to invest in bringing gas to Timor-Leste via pipeline,” said Ramos-Horta. . Guardian.

“East Timor will be on the edge of a financial cliff if Greater Sunrise is not operational within the next decade. I am on a business trip.”

Australian government calls for quiet diplomacy, not media operations

In response, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said: joint press conference In Dili on September 1, she met with East Timor’s Foreign Minister Adalgiza Magno and called on her counterparts to engage in quiet diplomacy and avoid using the media.

She said the Australian government recognizes that Greater Sunrise is “a project of great importance for Timor-Leste” and that “it is important to recognize that joint venture partners will discuss and agree on a way forward.” It is.”

“I mean Timor Gap, Woodside and Osaka Gas. And so far, that hasn’t happened,” she said. “I’ve told the president and others that we need to get rid of it. What I’m saying is that it’s best done respectfully and directly, not through the media.”

Wong did not address current tensions with Beijing in the region, but noted the tense geopolitical situation.

“One way small and medium-sized countries can navigate an era of strategic competition is by working together. Together we will ensure economic resilience and an order that reflects local rules and norms.” she said.

“We do not want a situation where power and size are the only ways to resolve disputes in this world. I’m interested in a flourishing order.”

Mr Wong also said Australia’s development assistance and loans are in the spirit of wanting Timor-Leste to be more resilient.

“We know economic resilience can be affected and constrained by unsustainable debt burdens and lenders with different objectives. We want to help make our country stronger, and you may not always like everything we do, but that’s what motivates us.”

Victoria Kelly-Clark


Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australia-based reporter focusing on the national politics and geopolitical environment in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.