The prime ministers of East Timor and Australia on Friday formalised the coming into force of a treaty on their maritime border in the Timor Sea, with a symbolic exchange of diplomatic notes in front of the government palace in Dili.
Taur Matan Ruak and Scott Morrison exchanged the documents in the short ceremony, which was organised to coincide with events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of East Timor"s independence referendum.
"With this act of exchange of diplomatic notes between Australia and East Timor, we have begun a new chapter of bilateral relations between our two countries," said the Timorese prime minister, adding that it was "a moment that demonstrates our strong mutual will to reach a fair and equitable agreement, after a successful negotiating process.
"It is with great pride that we mark the coming into force of this treaty, in both countries, as a good example for the world in the peaceful resolution of conflicts in a cooperative and collaborative way," he concluded.
The notes in question are the formal means by which each government informs the other that all internal requirements for the ratification of the treaty have been fulfilled, so allowing it to take effect.
Morrison, who is making his first ever visit to Timor - accompanied by the minister of foreign affairs, Marisa Payne - had already held a meeting with his counterpart following an official lunch offered by Taur Matan Ruak to the various delegations invited to the festivities.
Before setting off from Australia, in comments quoted by his country"s media, Morrison said he intended to use the visit to open a "new chapter" in relations between the two countries, dominated by the new treaty.
" "This is a new chapter for Australia and Timor-Leste that is based on our shared respect, interests and values," Morrison said, using the Portuguese-language name for the country.
Among support promised by Australia are improvements to the base of the East Timor Defence Forces (F-FDTL) and the laying of a subsea fiber optic cable between the countries.
Taur Matan Ruak has also asserted that Dili wants to "broaden and deepen" the bilateral relationship.
The lengthy documents relating to the border treaty, including the resolution by which it was ratified by Timor"s parliament, since promulgated by the country"s president, have already been published in an extraordinary 183-page edition of the state journal, published on Tuesday.
The exchange of diplomatic notes marked the conclusion of a lengthy process that began exactly three years ago when the Conciliation Commission requested by Timor under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea began sitting in The Hague.
The treaty was eventually concluded a year later, in 2017, and signed on 6 March 2018 in New York, by Agio Pereira, East Timor"s cabinet minister, and Australia"s then foreign minister, Julie Bishop.
The process made it possible to reach a negotiated overall solution for the long-running dispute over the permanent delimitation of the countries" maritime borders, including an agreement on the related link between their delimitation and the creation of special rules for the Greater Sunrise oilfields in the area, relating to production and revenue sharing.
In the case of East Timor, it was also necessary to amend the country"s tax laws in order to allow for it to charge taxes relating to oil exploration in the Timor Sea, including in areas previously shared with Australia or exclusively Australian.
Since the treaty was signed, the two countries have begun a long and complex negotiation with oil companies.