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Timor - Geography

Timor-Leste is located in Southeast Asia, on the southernmost edge of the Indonesian archipelago, northwest of Australia. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, also referred to as East Timor, is an island country, occupying the eastern half of Timor Island and the islands of Atauro and Jaco which is shared and bordered by the Indonesian West Timor. Timor-Leste includes the enclave of Oecussi, which is located within West Timor (Indonesia).

The archipelago structure of Timor-Leste has a total surface area of 18,899Km2, distributed in the following way: the principal territory with an area of around 17,900Km2, the enclave of Oe-cusse with an area of approximately 850Km2, the island of Ataúro, measuring around 144Km2 and the islet of Jaco, measuring around 5Km2. It is approximately 265km long, and at its widest point is 92Km wide. The land borders with West Timor (Indonesia) total around 220Km, the coastlines 700km, territorial waters 16,000Km2 and the EEZ around 75,000Km2.

Timor-Leste has volcanic origins which have produced a rugged terrain, characterized by a central spine of steep mountains that cascade to the sea in the north while giving way to a gentler decline in the south, where a coastal plain has formed. Deep valleys score the mountains, hampering movement beyond the coastal regions.After Indonesia, Timor-Leste’s closest neighbor is Australia, 400 miles to the south. It is semiarid and mountainous. Timor-Leste is located in Southeast Asia between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Timor-Leste is part of the Malay dry land and the highest point on the island is Foho Tatamailau.

Timor-Leste borders one country, Indonesia on the west side of Timor Island. Indonesia and Timor-Leste have experienced border issues since 2002 when Timor-Leste became independent from Indonesia. They have agreed on more than 900 coordinates as border points, but two land borders, Noel Besi-Citrana and Bijael Sunan-Oben, remain unresolved. Despite this, both countries are committed to speeding up negotiations and resolving the issues as soon as possible on land borders, and aimed to start maritime border talks at the end of 2016. Both countries intended to strengthen their close friendship, and Indonesia committed to being the main partner to Timor-Leste for its development.

Oecussi-Ambeno District is located on the north coast of the western part of Timor Island. It is separated from the rest of Timor-Leste by the Indonesian territory which surrounds the small enclave in all directions, except to the north, where it borders the Savu Sea. The district of Oecussi-Ambeno was named after the two original kingdoms which now constitute the district. The territory has 64.025 inhabitants (Census 2010) and an area of 815 km². The capital is the city of Pante Macassar, formerly known as Vila Taveiro during the Portuguese administration. The district of Oecussi-Ambeno is identical to that of the same in Portuguese Timor. It was the last Timorese circumscription elevated to district in August 1973.

The original vegetation of Timor Island was a diversity of lowland and mountainous ecosystems dominated by forests and woodlands of various structural and floristic types. The natural environment, forests and woodlands however are now significantly degraded and altered by a combination of natural and anthropogenic (resulting from or produced by humans) factors. The fragile physical conditions of the environment in tandem with an extended period (over 5,000 years) of human exploitation and unsustainable land management practices has transformed the natural environment into a predominantly rural agricultural landscape surrounding remnant pockets of natural vegetation, high mountain grasslands and degraded savannah rangelands. The use of fire as a tool for agriculture and livestock feeding and historic broad scale deforestation for timber has had a significant impact in this transformation. Logging has been banned since 2000 and currently the major threats to the natural environment are uncontrolled burning, agriculture and timber cutting for fuel wood.

From the point of view of internal threats, the mountainous massif situated in the interior of the territory is difficult to access (with various parts of the territory becoming increasingly hazardous in the rainy season) and presents particular difficulty in terms of communications, and therefore may constitute an excellent refuge for future groups hostile to national stability. Equally, because the principal intra-district communications network passes through Dili (the capital), Baucau and Maliana, these population centers are all major targets for future actions by hostile groups.

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