Joint exploration not raised
Stabroek News
January 29, 2002

The issue of joint exploration of the marine resources, including petroleum exploration of the disputed maritime area, was not raised at yesterday's meeting between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Suriname's President, Ronald Venetiaan.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting at President Venetiaan's Cabinnet Office, President Jagdeo reiterated that the issues to be discussed were those raised at the Cooperation Council and National Border Commissions in the Surinamese capital earlier this month.

President Venetiaan said that there was the possibility of joint exploration being raised at today's meeting. Under pressure from a number of small political parties, including the Millennium Combination headed by Desi Bouterse and the Moderbond, not to agree to joint exploration, he said that the two sides would discuss the topics that they had the ability to discuss. This response was given to the Surinamese press in Dutch and translated for the Guyanese media by a colleague. He also said that after the visit he would answer his critics and the Surinamese people would be able to determine who was telling the whole story and who was only giving part of it.

There were reports that the Surinamese government had issued a statement on Sunday explaining that its critics were not telling the whole story. Observers in Suriname said that President Venetiaan was likely to be in deep political trouble if he agreed to joint exploration.

One lecturer, Gordon Babel, to whom Stabroek News spoke said that whatever the benefits to the peoples of the two countries from joint exploration the settlement of the border issue was a sine qua non. He confessed that the views of young people like himself were conditioned by reports they heard about 1969 when Guyana expelled Surinamese elements from the New River Triangle. But he confessed to needing to ascertain the facts for himself.

Earlier, President Venetiaan had told the media, after accompanying President Jagdeo to his suite at the Hotel Torarica, that the issue was not raised nor was that of the return of the CGX oil rig.

"I don't know if CGX will be at the talks. So far it has not been brought on the agenda. So we will look to see if it will come up and we will know how to respond," Venetiaan told reporters. "We have no business with CGX."

The statement announcing the meetings of the Cooperation Council and the National Border Commission in which the joint exploration was raised said that the decisions taken at those meetings would form the basis for the talks between the two Presidents.

President Venetiaan said too that he expected the visit to "contribute to the opportunity for both countries to develop better relations."