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Australia

East Timor: Xanana Gusmao given hero’s welcome at airport after striking sea border deal with Australia

He had been abroad for eight months leading the final stretch of maritime border talks with Australia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 2:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 2:59pm

Thousands of East Timorese lined the road to the capital’s international airport to cheer returning independence hero Xanana Gusmao for leading negotiations that settled the sea border between the impoverished country and Australia.

Gusmao, whose party lost power in parliamentary elections last year, was greeted at Dili’s tiny airport Sunday with cries of “Viva Xanana Gusmao”.

He’d been abroad for the previous eight months leading the final stretch of maritime border talks.

Australia and East Timor, one of the world’s youngest nations, signed a historic treaty Tuesday drawing their maritime boundary and dividing oil and gas deposits under the seabed, ending years of bitter wrangling and opening a new chapter in relations.

For East Timor, a half-island nation of 1.5 million people who are among the poorest in the world, the treaty was a crucial economic lifeline.

“We have to hold tight to our wealth,” Gusmao said.

Australia and East Timor are still to agree on final terms for the exploitation of billions of dollars of oil and gas riches that lie beneath the Timor Sea.

East Timor will get the biggest share of revenue, according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It will be split either 80-20 if gas is piped to Australia for processing, or 70-30 if it is piped to East Timor, she said at the signing.

“We will continue to struggle to draw the pipeline to East Timor,” said Gusmao.