No date set for resumption of Guyana/Suriname talks

Stabroek News
October 8, 2000

No date has been set for the resumption of talks between Guyana and Suriname on the border dispute though President Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed the hope that sufficient progress could be made during the coming year that would allow for the return of the CGX Energy Inc oil rig.

The border dispute flared into the open as a result of the forced removal of the CGX rig by Surinamese gunboats on June 3, from its drilling position within Guyana's maritime jurisdiction. Guyana's efforts to negotiate the unhindered return of the oil rig failed.

When they met in Brasilia during the South American Summit, President Bharrat Jagdeo and his Surinamese counterpart, Ronald Venetiaan, agreed that they would meet again in Jamaica to review what had taken place so far in the negotiations between the two countries. The talks were to take place during the CARICOM/Canada Summit. President Venetiaan did not attend the CARICOM/Canada meeting; Suriname was represented by its Foreign Minister, Marie Levins.

The negotiations so far were conducted with the outgoing Jules Wijdenbosch administration and were broken off by Guyana, which indicated that it would resume them when the Venetiaan administration took office. Guyana took the decision after the last round of talks broke down in Jamaica despite the best efforts of the CARICOM-appointed facilitator, Jamaica's Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson.

Stabroek News has learnt that when the talks resume their focus would be to reach agreement on fast-tracking the delineation of the maritime boundary; joint management and utilisation of the resources of the maritime area in dispute; reaching agreement on Guyana's eastern border.

Agreement on the joint management and utilisation of the resources of the disputed area could clear the way for the return of the CGX oil rig. The company has declared its interest in the area and has vowed to maintain and defend its commercial interests in its concession areas.

Stabroek News understands that while no date has been set for the resumption of the talks, the Foreign Ministry was in an advanced state of preparedness in the event that the talks should resume this year.

In July after the talks broke down in Kingston, Jamaica, to which they had moved after deadlocking in Montego Bay, Prime Minister Patterson wrote to both governments asking them as a matter of urgency to name teams of experts with the relevant mandate to resume the talks on these issues. In the meantime, Suriname has stepped up its patrols in the Corentyne River and a number of fishing boats and their crews have been detained. They were released after the owners of the boats had paid a US$1000 fine. The arrests of the fishing boats was preceded by an incident in August during which four Surinamese soldiers came ashore in a dinghy at Scotsburg, Corriverton in an attempt to take back across the river a passenger boat which had eluded two Surinamese patrol boats while crossing from Nickerie.

Levins assured Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee, when they met in New York last month that the acts by the Surinamese military were contrary to the spirit of the decisions taken in Brasilia. She promised that she would make the necessary enquiries to ensure that an air of normality returned to the Corentyne River. So too did its efforts to get Suriname to agree to joint management and utilisation of the disputed maritime area after six rounds of talks, which ended in Kingston, Jamaica. The other rounds of the talks were held in Trinidad and Tobago, Georgetown, Paramaribo, Canouan, St Vincent and Montego Bay Kingston.

Suriname's position has been that the area being claimed by Guyana belongs to Suriname. President Venetiaan when in opposition told Stabroek News that it was Guyana that had taken the first "drastic action" by awarding the concession to CGX. During the talks in Georgetown, Suriname asked to be given a copy of the agreement reached with CGX but the administration refused. President Jagdeo has since agreed that he would a copy of the CGX agreement available to his Surinamese counterpart. He did so after he agreed to share the Beal Agreement with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, giving as his reason for doing so the need to prevent sections of the Venezuelan administration from continuing to misrepresent the agreement with Beal Aerospace.

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