Insanally sees oil exploration opening
Stabroek News
January 19, 2002

Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally says he believes that an agreement struck by Guyana and Suriname yesterday will pave the way for talks on the sharing of benefits from the exploitation of resources in a disputed maritime area.

He said that Guyana and Suriname have agreed "to confer on arrangements of a practical nature" for cooperating without prejudice to the outcome of talks on the longstanding border dispute between the two countries.

This decision accords with Article 74 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which they are signatories, that requires adjoining states to pursue practical cooperation measures pending the resolution of their maritime border dispute. The dispute erupted in June 2000 over Paramaribo's armed eviction of an oil rig from Guyana's waters.

The two countries have also agreed to resume the London Conference of June 23, 1966 on the territorial border and to consult on bilateral/maritime boundaries in the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zones of Guyana and Suriname.

These decisions were made during the meeting of their national border commissions which ended yesterday in Paramaribo, Foreign Minister, Rudy Insanally, who led the Guyana delegation, said.

Speaking with Stabroek News shortly after his return to Georgetown, Insanally said that the move towards cooperation, in his opinion, opened the way for consultations on the sharing of benefits from the exploitation of the marine resources of the disputed maritime area.

The issue of cooperation on petroleum exploration was referred to the Border Commission, the second of two high-level meetings this week between the two countries during which they agreed to cooperate in a wide range of areas so as to create the climate of trust and confidence to move forward to concrete cooperation in the maritime area they both claim. The Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council had met earlier in the week for the formulation of options to be considered at the meeting set for monthend between President Bharrat Jagdeo and his Surinamese counterpart Ronald Venetiaan. Insanally said he felt that the meetings went well and he had the impression that Suriname was willing to open a new era in its relations with Guyana.

He said it was agreed that the commission would meet as often as necessary and the next meeting was set for May. Ideas and proposals for cooperation would have to be submitted by April, he said.

However, he said, this did not preclude Presidents Jagdeo and Venetiaan discussing other proposals when they meet at the end of the month in the Surinamese capital.

About 19 months ago, relations between the two countries were sorely strained after the expulsion of the CGX Energy Inc oil rig from its drilling position in Guyana's territorial waters by Surinamese gunboats. During negotiations, which it was hoped would see the unhindered return of the oil rig to its drilling position, Guyana had proposed joint exploration and management of the marine resources in the area without prejudice to the outcome of the negotiations on the maritime boundaries.

Discussions between the representatives of the two governments were held in Port-of-Spain, Georgetown, Paramaribo, Canouan, St Vincent and Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica. They failed to reach agreement despite the efforts of CARICOM during the meetings in St Vincent and Jamaica.

The other members of the team at the Border Commission meeting were Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh SC; Ambassador Rudy Collins; Head of the Frontiers Department, Keith George; Senior Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rosemary Cadogan; and legal consultant, Dr Barton Scotland.