Joint exploitation modality to be set in Jamaica talks
- CARICOM statement

Stabroek News
July 7, 2000

President Bharrat Jagdeo and his Surinamese counterpart Jules Wijdenbosch have agreed to determine a modality for exploiting the benefits of the oil exploration to be undertaken in the disputed offshore area.

"It is recognised that wherever states have contiguous borders, there will likely exist an area mutually exclusive to both states which create a joint interest in the area of overlap," a statement issued yesterday by CARICOM said. The statement was released after the CARICOM Heads of Government discussed the situation arising out of the longstanding territorial dispute between Guyana and Suriname and the most recent impasse between the two countries over the granting of a licence by Guyana to CGX Energy Inc. The licence for exploratory drilling was issued for an area in Guyana's waters which Suriname claims.

Suriname had not objected when the licence was issued, but had subsequently forcibly evicted the rig from its drilling location on June 3. Four rounds of talks between the two sides have so far failed to yield a compromise that would see the rig return to its target unhindered. Guyana had proposed joint exploitation of the resources in the area pending a final settlement of the dispute, but Suriname had insisted that it had to be the country issuing the licence. A fifth round of talks is scheduled for Jamaica next week to expedite a settlement of outstanding issues including the fate of the CGX rig and the handling of the larger border dispute. It was recognised by both parties that the settlement of claims in their respective Exclusive Economic Zone was contingent on the final settlement of the border dispute, the statement said. The Twenty-first Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM which ended on Wednesday in Canouan, St Vincent recalled that a mechanism for the settlement of outstanding border disputes existed for the purpose of delineating the territorial boundaries between both states.

The statement noted that proposals had been forwarded by the two countries in the context of exploiting the benefits in the disputed area.

It listed some that constitute elements which could facilitate an acceptable framework for full agreement. These were: (a) the establishment of a Joint Commission to undertake the granting of licences in the area; (b) the joint superintendence of all activities to be carried out in the area; (c) the sharing of any data and information resulting from the exploratory activities in the area being placed on a transparent basis; (d) the equitable distribution of the proceeds flowing from any exploitation in the area.

According to the statement, both Guyana and Suriname made it clear that the right of any underlying claim subsisting in the area would be preserved without prejudice. It was also accepted that they would have to obtain the concurrence of their constitutional and institutional bodies before arriving at a final agreement.

The conference welcomed the assurances by presidents Jagdeo and Wijdenbosch that they would do everything possible to avoid the escalation of tension and work towards restoration of normality in their relations as befits sister nations in CARICOM.

The Heads of Government affirmed the vital importance of settling the dispute in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

Both Guyana and Suriname expressed their commitment to the earliest resolution of outstanding border claims and pledged to act in good faith to accomplish this end. They further restated their intention to reconvene their Joint Border Commission for dialogue in respect of these claims, the statement said.

Prime Minister of Jamaica, Percival Patterson, is the facilitator for next week's talks between Jagdeo and Wijdenbosch to be held in Kingston.

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