Joint exploration independent of New River Triangle issue -Insanally By Patrick Denny

Stabroek News
October 31, 2002

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Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally hopes that the issue of the New River Triangle would not be an obstacle to the agreement for joint exploration and exploitation of the resources in the disputed maritime area between Guyana and Suriname.

He told Stabroek News yesterday that he remains optimistic that an agreement would be reached for the joint exploitation of the marine resources in the area, given the commitment to that principle at the highest levels in both countries. But he cautions that problems, which have been in existence for some time, are rarely solved overnight. The joint exploitation of the disputed maritime area and the demilitarisation of the New River Triangle figured prominently at last weekend's meeting of the joint national border commissions in Paramaribo. There is yet no agreement on agreed acceptable language to couch the conclusions of those discussions.

In June 2000, Surinamese gunboats ejected an oil rig contracted by the Canadian company CGX. Since then Guyana in talks with Suriname, has been pushing for an agreement that would allow for the joint exploration and exploitation of the area as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both countries are signatories to the UN Convention.

Minister Insanally expressed the hope that the New River Triangle issue would not get in the way of the joint exploration agreement. He explained, "We have agreed (that) that matter along with other relevant matters could be addressed within the joint meetings of the border commissions".

"So we have not foreclosed discussions but as I have said the other mechanism can be operated quite independently."

Reacting to comments on the slow progress made since 2000 and the possibility of considering moving the issue to a multilateral forum, Minister Insanally pointed out that all options are available to Guyana. However, he stressed that at this point in time "we are looking at what we have".

"President (Bharrat) Jagdeo made this proposal in good faith that we should talk about this possibility and we will explore this option fully as we stated in the meeting in Suriname before looking at other possibilities. We are committed to this process. We hope we could find a way forward with Suriname on this."

About the negotiations in the joint border commissions meeting on the maritime agreement, Minister Insanally noted that though there is a commitment at the highest levels "the devil is in the details".

"I think there has been progress in understanding what the position is on both sides and we will explore the process as fully as possible to see whether we cannot make it operable and make it serve our interests as both our peoples are poor".

The Minister observed that because these things take time, "we thought we would utilise this provision of the Law of the Sea Convention which specifies ... parties could agree to co-operate and agree to share in the benefits of these resources until an overall settlement of the other problems."

"We would like the process to be more accelerated but we are willing to work with Suriname."