Timor-Leste Blazing a Trail for Maritime Dispute Resolution

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As the US grapples with escalation in the South China Sea, Timor-Leste makes an unprecedented move that may present a solution.

The words spoken by President Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam in May resonated loudly with the people of Timor-Leste. The president reminded all that “Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and its territory should not be violated. Big nations should not bully smaller ones.”

Obama expressed this conviction in the context of the South China Sea territorial feuds, urging States to resolve disputes “peacefully… through legal means, in accordance with international law.”

As the president spoke, a miniature version of the South China Sea row is playing out in a corner of Southeast Asia between Australia and Timor-Leste. And setting a precedent, Timor-Leste in April became the first country in the world to activate Compulsory Conciliation – a dispute resolution mechanism under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – to compel Australia to settle permanent maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea.

In so doing, Timor-Leste made itself a test case for an approach to addressing maritime territorial disputes that can potentially be applied to the South China Sea and elsewhere.

Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2016/06/timor-leste-blazing-a-trail-for-maritime-dispute-resolution/

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