Jagdeo plugs joint exploitation in talks with Venetiaan

Stabroek News
January 23, 2001

President Bharrat Jagdeo says he has had discussions with Suriname President Ronald Venetiaan on joint exploitation of resources in an area which sparked a major dispute in June last year between the two neighbours.

It was not clear yesterday whether these discussions would result in the return of the Canadian oil explorer CGX which was booted out of a drilling location in Guyana's waters by the Suriname army on June 3, 2000.

Speaking at the turning of the sod ceremony for Demerara Distillers Ltd's US$15 million expansion programme yesterday, President Jagdeo said he has proposed to Venetiaan that the two countries jointly exploit the resources in the disputed area until the issue is resolved.

An arrangement could be worked out where both Guyana and Suriname embark on oil exploration without either of the two countries giving up its claim to the disputed territory, President Jagdeo stated.

He noted that that sector is one with the greatest potential for Guyana as the country strives to establish new industries.

CGX was forced out of the disputed territory by Surinamese gunboats as it was about to embark drilling at a key target.

Foreign Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, when contacted by Stabroek News yesterday, said his advice to the President has always been that Guyana's position should be one where both countries could engage in joint exploitation and management of the area.

This arrangement should be in place pending the resolution of the maritime boundaries according to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, according to Rohee.

Rohee offered no comment when asked whether CGX will be returning to continue its exploration following the discussions between the two Presidents.

But a senior Foreign Ministry official noted that the company has retained its petroleum exploration licence.

Reuters had reported that the CGX issue would have come up at the CARICOM/Canada caucus last week in Jamaica but it was not eventually included on the agenda. CGX was forced to drill at a less promising target off the Guyana coast which was dry.

Several rounds of intense talks with the previous Suriname government headed by Jules Wijdenbosch bore no fruit.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Patrick Patterson acted as the facilitator at some of these talks which eventually folded. Joint exploitation of the area pending the final resolution of the dispute had been among the proposals floated.

Since the new Surinamese government was sworn in President Jagdeo has not been able to meet officially with President Venetiaan and there was no word on progress until yesterday's disclosure.

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