Mr Ramos-Horta said he’d had informal discussions with Chinese officials about their potential involvement in the project over the last two or three years.

“They are very interested and they even told me they are very interested even to be the sole partners,” he told 7.30.

He said Timor-Leste had never made an official approach to China, “but we do have an excellent relationship with China”.

Mr Ramos-Horta has previously warned Australia that if it did not intervene to help his country resolve a stand-off with Australian energy giant Woodside over the gas project, Timor-Leste would turn to China.

He has called on Australia and Woodside to “extend the hand of friendship” and agree that gas from a deposit in the Timor Sea should be sent to Timor-Leste rather than Australia for processing.

Currently Woodside and Timor-Leste are negotiating over the future of the “Greater Sunrise” oil and gas deposits between the two countries.

Woodside has suggested that if the gas is processed in Timor-Leste then the project may not be viable.

Timor-Leste says it should benefit from the additional jobs and profits that can come with processing.

While Woodside and Timor-Leste have an agreement about how royalties for the deposits will be divided, Timor-Leste is unlikely to be able to pay for the multi-million-dollar investment required to build a processing facility.

Mr Ramos-Horta’s comments about other options if Woodside walks away from Greater Sunrise will cause concern in Canberra.

He has previously said: “We will work with Indonesia, we will work with South Korea or with China, if necessary.”

Continue reading