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Timor Gap oil will belong to East Timor

Lusa - February 21, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesia's minister of economy, industry and finance has clarified Jakarta's position on the Timor Gap, a potentially oil-rich offshore region, saying that "if East Timor chooses to separate from Indonesia, then the Gap region will automatically belong to East Timor".

Ginandjar Kartasasmita was cited Thursday by the Antara news agency. He said that the controversial Timor Gap Treaty would be on the agenda of an upcoming ministers meeting between Australia and Indonesia, to be held from Feb. 23 to 25 in Bali.

Kartasasmita added, however, that the upcoming meeting would only focus on technical details of the current treaty, under which Ausralia and Indonesia agree to jointly exploit the underwater resources of the Timor Sea between the half-island of East Timor and northern Australia.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Mines and Energy Minister Kuntoro Mangkusubroto confirmed Thursday that Indonesia continues to invest in oil prospecting in the Timor Gap.

East Timor has been occupied by Indonesia since 1975, though Jakarta now says it will withdraw from the territory if the East Timorese reject a proposal for enhanced autonomy.