East Timor again raises Aust spying claim

Amid the furore over allegations of spying on Indonesia’s leaders, East Timor has repeated claims Australia bugged its leaders during delicate negotiations on the Timor Sea resources treaty in 2004.

East Timor is pursuing international arbitration to have the 2006 treaty overturned, a process it launched last December after the Australian government failed to respond to the bugging claims.

But it says it would halt this process if the Australian government gave a detailed response to their spying allegations.

Agio Pereira, president of East Timor’s council of ministers, said his country’s development depended on revenue from the Timor Sea Greater Sunrise gas field.

“When you bug the negotiation team’s evaluation of the impact of their negotiations, you do have an advantage. It’s more than unfair,” he told ABC television on Wednesday.

“It actually creates incredible disadvantage to the other side.”

Former Labor MP Janelle Saffin, now a legal adviser for East Timor, said there had to be protocols around spying.

“If spying has been taking place and somebody is able to gain a commercial advantage, that is certainly of deep, deep concern,” she told the ABC.

They claim Australian spies bugged the East Timor cabinet room where their negotiators discussed tactics.

Canberra journalist Paul Daley, an adviser to the East Timor government during the negotiations, told the ABC they were advised all their communications would be monitored.

To avoid eavesdropping during negotiations in 2005, East Timor negotiators left the foreign affairs building in Canberra and held their discussions in the nearby National Gallery sculpture garden, leaving all their phones 100 metres away.

Mr Pereira said compelling evidence would be presented at a preliminary hearing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague next week.

“It’s not about money. It’s about sovereignty, it’s about certainty and it’s about the future of our future generations. It’s really important for Timor,” he said.

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