D-Day for CGX rig
Two sides pledge good faith talks
Meetings resume today

By Patrick Denny in Montego bay
Stabroek News
July 15, 2000

Today is a make or break day for the CGX oil rig as Guyana and Suriname yesterday pledged good faith talks going into a critical round of diplomacy this morning aimed at defusing a bitter row between the two neighbours.

Talks on the return of the CGX oil rig to its coveted drilling location in this country's waters ended last night with members of both teams emerging tight-lipped.

The rig had been evicted on June 3, by Surinamese gunboats and yesterday's talks, the fifth round since the eviction, began with both the Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Surinamese President Dr Jules Wijdenbosch committing themselves to negotiate in good faith and in a spirit of willingness to arrive at consensus. The talks are to resume at 0830 hrs today.

The talks, under the chairmanship of by Jamaica's Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, are being held in the posh, exclusive and secluded Half Moon Resort at Rose Hall, just outside Montego Bay. Patterson's facilitating of the talks was as a result of the decision taken during the CARICOM summit last week in Canouan, St Vincent and the Grenadines, that he should continue to facilitate the talks between the two sides.

According to a Guyana-Suriname statement issued in Canouan, the focus of the talks is the ultimate consensus on a mechanism for sharing the benefits of the exploratory drilling activities in the disputed area. Among the issues related to this are joint exploration and utilisation of the resources, joint superintendence of all activities and the sharing of all data generated by exploration activities on a transparent basis.

Another related issue which should be the focus of discussion is the equitable distribution of the proceeds deriving from any exploitative activities in the area.

Following the opening session, Jagdeo, Wijdenbosch and Patterson withdrew to allow the discussions at a technical level to proceed. The technical level talks are being chaired by Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Trade, Anthony Hylton. Jagdeo, Wijdenbosch and Patterson were scheduled to rejoin the meeting at 1600 hrs, to hear the findings. However, the three heads of government did not rejoin the talks until about 1830 hrs. The talks ended an hour later.

A statement issued after the opening session said that President Jagdeo "reiterated that his delegation was prepared to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that will redound to the benefit of the peoples of both countries."

The statement said that he had pointed out that "the framework for the discussions had been agreed in the statement of Guyana and Suriname issued by the twenty-first Summit in Canouan."

President Jagdeo was also quoted as saying that "it was possible to create an agreement which would be a win-win situation for both countries."

The statement said too that President Wijdenbosch had expressed "his country's political will to continue to work with the neighbouring countries to further integrate into the region" and "reiterated that the goodwill to cooperate with the neighbour, Guyana, is hence an important element of its foreign policy for development.

"In this context it would be fitting to settle disputes by means of consultation and constructive dialogue by way of the mechanism of diplomacy."

The Surinamese delegation includes two new faces, former ambassador to Guyana, Henri Illes, who is a member of the Surinamese Labour Party, and Cor Papigop, a member of the National Party of Suriname and former minister of education. Both parties are components of the New Front coalition which will take office in another month. The other members of the delegation at the table with President Wijdenbosch were Staatsolie board chairman Tjon Kie Sim; Natural Resources Minister, Errol Alibux; Foreign Minister, Errol Snijders; and Ambassador Henk Alimohamed. Among the other members of the delegation are Suriname armed forces head Col Jerry Slijngaard to whose presence in uniform at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting President Jagdeo had objected.

President Jagdeo was flanked on his left by Ambassador Rudy Collins and attorney-at-law Dr Barton Scotland and on his right by Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee; and former foreign minister, Rashleigh Jackson.

The size of the delegations at the negotiating table with the two presidents was determined at the meeting Jagdeo, Wijdenbosch and Patterson held on Wednesday evening.

Today is D-Day for CGX, which had announced last week that if there was no positive outcome from this round of talks, it would pack up its rig and leave the Guyana-Suriname basin, believed to have a potential recovery of some 15 billion barrels of oil. Once the rig leaves the area, CGX had said, it would be about two years before another similar one could be leased. CGX had also said that it would vigorously defend its commercial interests in the disputed area.

A CGX delegation which is here in Jamaica, has noticeably kept a low profile. In contrast to their presence at the talks in Canouan, delegation members Kerry Sully, Dennis Clement and John Cullen have not been seen around the talks. Clement was reported to have flown back to Toronto yesterday, having received a message that his mother had died.

CGX had drilled a well of some 12,750 feet at its Horseshoe West location after it was evicted from the Eagle target by the Surinamese. However, this well proved to be dry.

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