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Development and Settlement of Disputes

Mandatory Counseling: Why the Timor-Leste v. Australia Conciliation Court Case Matters for Maritime Dispute Resolution

Author: Lyle J. Morris

Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy

Vietnam China Oil Rig

The case has several important implications for other states currently confronting maritime disputes in Asia and elsewhere. First, the positive result may open the door to compulsory conciliation between other claimants to maritime disputes, even if the state in question has made an Article 298 declaration and concluded a treaty foreclosing avenues to resolve the disputes, as was explicitly stated in CMATS. Of course, political will also provided the key ingredient leading to an amicable agreement in the case of Australia and Timor-Leste. After all, failure to reach consensus might have reinforced suspicions among some countries that a larger, more powerful country like Australia was more interested in oil profits than in working with its smaller neighbors like TimorLeste. Second, compulsory conciliation offers smaller states a less contentious and nonbinding mechanism to compel larger states to sit down at the negotiating table and seek equitable solutions to maritime disputes. If a resolution is not achieved within the 12-month time frame of negotiation, the Conciliation Commission report still provides a roadmap for delimitation under international law that both parties can pursue if desired.

Download the full commentary at https://pellcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Morris-2017.pdf

About the author: Lyle J. Morris is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he focuses on security developments in East and Southeast Asia. He has over ten years of experience researching and leading projects on Asia-Pacific security issues and has published recently on the rise of coast guards in East and Southeast Asia, maritime security in the Asia-Pacific, Chinese military modernization, and Chinese engagement in Africa.

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