Eastern Caribbean urges restraint by Venezuela over Bird Rock
June 2, 2004
Eastern Caribbean states have urged Venezuela to exercise restraint over the Bird Rock issue and amid soaring oil prices they have agreed to review the energy sector.
Oil prices, Caribbean refugees, Haiti and Venezuela's recent moves on Bird Rock were high on the agenda of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) meeting which ended last week in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
OECS member states agreed to set up a Task Force on Energy Policy to advise on effective conservation, alternative energy exploration as well as sector reforms, according to the communique issued at the end of the meeting.
The countries expressed deep concern over rising oil prices, and indicated they may have to review energy prices as a result.
They expressed special concern that any increase in energy prices would pose serious threats to the economic recovery of the sub-region and this in turn would impact negatively on their capacity to compete effectively in the international market place.
OECS states also urged Venezuela to tread carefully on Bird Rock, where the Chavez government is trying to set up a scientific naval base.
Bird Rock, a guano-producing islet, is just 70 miles off the coast of Dominica. Recently the Venezuelan government authorised funds for the creation of the base, a move designed to bolster its claims to sovereignty over Bird Rock.
The OECS Authority reiterated its concern regarding the acceptance of Bird Rock as an island by several jurisdictions in the region and the claim by Venezuela.
Concerns about the implications of this claim for the territorial waters and the integrity of the territorial zone of the OECS member states, individually and collectively, were also noted.
Similar to the recent statement by Caricom's Council of Foreign Ministers, the OECS Authority called on Venezuela to refrain from any action that might violate international law, including the UN Law of the Sea Convention, which governs claims to the territory.
Haiti was also the subject of what were described as free and open discussions by the Authority, which urged the administration to engage in confidence building measures geared at returning Haiti to the democratic fold.
President Gerard Latortue's administration was established after an armed revolt drove President Jean Bertrand Aristide into exile. In the wake of the revolt, Haitians continue to flee the troubled island, seeking refugee status in neighbouring territories like Jamaica.
In a related development, OECS states said they were also disturbed over the growing number of OECS nationals who are seeking refugee status in Canada.
They say they will engage in all efforts necessary to redress this issue.
The creation of a Technical Committee to examine and recommend new Treaty arrangements for the OECS sub-regional integration movement was noted by the OECS states. They agreed to convene a meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on Economic Union to further guide the work of the committee and relevant consultants.
OECS states also noted a paper on design elements for governance under the proposed economic union and received an update on the constitutional reform initiatives underway in member states.
The need for the sub-region to strengthen diplomatic involvement in the area of external trade negotiations was considered and the OECS states agreed with recommendations of a committee chaired by St. Vincent's Foreign Minister. They also agreed that a meeting of OECS Foreign Ministers and officials should be convened to develop and refine the group's core positions.
The implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) was also discussed and will be examined further at the upcoming Caricom Heads of Government Conference.
The next meeting of the OECS Authority will be held in November.