No firm move on oil rig return
- talks to continue in Suriname
June 15, 2000
GUYANA and Suriname ended a second round of talks here yesterday with no firm movement on Guyana's demand for the unhindered return of the oil rig to the offshore site from which it was forced out two Saturdays ago by Suriname gunboats.
Foreign Minister Clement Rohee told the Chronicle Guyana's primary objective at the talks, started in Trinidad last week, "remains the unhindered return of the rig to the offshore area" and said this will be the position when the negotiations continue in the Suriname capital Paramaribo this weekend.
The Suriname navy on June 3 evicted the American-owned drilling rig Canadian CGX Energy Inc. has contracted for oil exploration in the offshore concession the Guyana Government granted it in 1998.
CGX towed the rig to a safe location and is awaiting the outcome of the talks which Guyana wants concluded by Sunday. The firm believes it has located two potentially giant oil fields and is eager to resume drilling.
The Suriname delegation flew out yesterday afternoon without meeting the local press and Rohee acknowledged "we're not necessarily satisfied" about the progress at the talks.
He told reporters at Herdmanston House in Georgetown the talks concluded not on a totally positive note but declined to go into details on the "sticking points" against progress on Guyana's stand that the rig be allowed back into what the government here maintains is Guyana territory.
Rohee repeated President Bharrat Jagdeo's position at a press conference last week that the government was "firm on the maintenance of Guyana's sovereignty and will take whatever action necessary to preserve and protect its territorial integrity."
The Guyana Foreign Minister said he has to brief the President and Cabinet on the Georgetown round of talks and could not go into much detail of the meeting but told the Chronicle this leg was positive.
"We put a lot of emphasis on the political dialogue and on clarifying political views and searching for solutions based on political considerations", he said.
He spent yesterday continuing political talks started Tuesday night and going into early yesterday morning with Suriname team leader Mr Errol Alibux, Minister of Natural Resources, while technicians on both sides waited on the fringes.
The ministers on the two teams left the opening session Tuesday after laying what Rohee said was the "political framework for the negotiating team to begin their work" and waited in the wings.
The technicians did not meet again in a joint session after Rohee and Alibux began the political talks which ran into just before the Suriname side left yesterday.
Rohee said the political issues "became more pronounced here in Georgetown and I suspect the reason for that is because we were drawing closer to the more intractable issues".
"To solve those you now have to deal with the political issues", he said without going into details.
He said the "sticking points have emerged more clearly in Georgetown in a more pronounced way and when we go to Suriname we should not be going over the same issues again."
Rohee acknowledged the Surinamese have asked for a copy of the Guyana Government agreement with CGX and said Guyana was considering this.
Guyana was not interested in "prolonged negotiations" and wants to conclude these in Suriname this weekend, he said.
"We have a vested interest in attracting direct foreign investors to that area (and) CGX is a case in point...it's not in our interest to have them pasturing", he told reporters, adding that Guyana has identified the Sunday outside date to conclude the talks on returning the rig to its original site.
"We do not want CGX to walk away from this deal", he said.
Guyana was "committed to a third round of negotiations" in Suriname, he said.
"We have to look at the Suriname encounter in an objective manner", Rohee said, adding that the results there will determine any adjustment in the Guyana strategy.
He said Guyana was still interested in joint utilisation of the natural resources in the disputed territory until the two countries finally settle their maritime boundaries.
"Our optimism has not faded", Rohee offered, adding that the "intense discussions" here had clarified several positions.
He said Guyana was looking at continuing the process of dialogue and the two sides had fulfilled the mandate of meeting here to "examine ways and means of arriving at a peaceful and practical resolution of the problem".
Rohee felt the opening session Tuesday "went very well", maintaining his earlier optimism.
"A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since we met in Trinidad", he told Surinamese and local reporters before the meeting got under way.
He Tuesday felt the "way is now open for further progress in the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem."
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