Suriname invited for oil rig feud talks
Rohee says drill site in Guyana's waters

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
June 3, 2000

Guyana has invited Suriname to send a high-level delegation here within 24 hours to discuss this country's right of access to the Corentyne River and by extension off-shore resources.

The Suriname government has protested the operations of an oil rig owned by Canadian company CGX Energy Inc, which was granted permission to explore for oil in an area which the Guyana government asserts is within its territory. The rig was due to begin drilling yesterday.

The Suriname government has made its concerns known to CGX as well as the Canadian government and has warned, according to a CANA report yesterday, "that it reserves the right to take appropriate measures to bring an immediate end to these illegal activities."

The Guyana government is aware of the approaches to the company and the Canadian government and has therefore initiated the stated action. Foreign Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, told a late afternoon press conference yesterday at his Takuba Lodge office that the invitation had been issued earlier yesterday.

The invitation, he said, also "reiterated the need for both sides to enter into dialogue aimed at information sharing, building confidence and removing irritants to the good neighbourly relations."

He said that it was likely that the invitation would be accepted since they were hardly rejected in situations such as that which had arisen between Guyana and Suriname. Also, he said, the invitation was intended to create the environment which would contribute to the defusing of any tension which would have built up in recent weeks. He added that it was unlikely, despite the recent elections which could result in a change of government in Paramaribo, that there would have been any lapse in the institutional memory of the Suriname authorities.

Rohee will be present for the meetings with the Surinamese as he is not attending the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of American States in Windsor, Canada this weekend. His Venezuelan counterpart, Jose Vicente Rangel had expected that he would have been able to raise his government's concerns about the agreement signed with Beal Aerospace Technologies, a US firm, in the Waini. Rohee said that he had accepted Rangel's invitation to meet, but that meeting would take place "in due course".

Rohee explained that on May 11, the Suriname government protested that Guyana had violated its sovereignty and territorial integrity in granting permission to CGX to explore for oil in Surinamese territory.

He said that the government's response on May 17, was handed to Suriname's ambassador to Guyana who had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive it, rejecting as inaccurate assertions that Guyana had not responded to Suriname's note.

He said that in the response sent to the Suriname government on May 17, and reiterated in another dispatched yesterday, Guyana stated that it had not violated Suriname's sovereignty or territorial integrity.

The May 17, note read that "the Corentyne River is a border river and as such attracts all the characteristics and features which such rivers bear in international law." It said too that the "Government of Guyana still subscribes to the view that the resources of the Corentyne River ought to be explored and exploited for the economic benefit of the peoples of both countries."

The note sent yesterday further clarifying Guyana's position as to the location of the common maritime boundary between the two countries described that location as commencing:

"at the intersection of the seaward prolongation of the N10E line between two concrete marks on the Guyana mainland with the line of the mean low water springs and extends thence seawards along the line of equidistance to the outer limit of Guyana's continental shelf, i.e. 200 nautical miles from Guyana's baseline, and beyond to the outer limit of Guyana's potential extended continental shelf."

Rohee asserted that the location of the boundary was as described in the Maritime Act of Guyana, which all patriotic Guyanese who recite the National Pledge would honor.

He asserted too that unlike a recent case on the country's border with Venezuela in which a highly-placed government official had stated that the wrong markers had been used in delineating the concession granted to an American oil company, the CGX concession was definitely in Guyana's territory.

Rohee said that the note sent to Suriname had referred to the efforts which Guyana had made to have the Guyana-Suriname National Border Commission reactivated as had been agreed during the visit of then president Dr Cheddi Jagan to Suriname in 1995.

He said that the note sent on May 17, recommended the reactivation of the commission "at the earliest opportunity to continue deliberations on issues relating to developments in the Corentyne area."

Pressed on whether the diplomatic effort was the only one being made, Rohee said that his ministry was working with a number of other agencies on the issue.

Chief of Staff, Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Michael Atherly who along with Commissioner of Police(ag), Floyd McDonald was at the press conference, said that the situation was being monitored by the security forces. He stressed that they were prepared for any eventuality.

Also at the briefing was Guyana Geology and Mines Commissioner, Brian Sucre, who told reporters that his organisation would be sending an officer to monitor the operations of the rig during the coming week.

Rohee disclosed too that the government intended to consult with a number of individuals and organisations including the parliamentary opposition parties on the issue. He said he expected that in the course of those consultations and briefings, his ministry would be able to tap into the institutional memory about the issue which was not available within the ministry.

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