THE Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community meeting in Canouan in St Vincent and the Grenadines on the occasion of the 21st meeting of the conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, discussed the situation arising out of the longstanding territorial dispute between two of its member states, Guyana and Suriname, and the most recent dispute between the parties concerning the grant of a licence by the Government of Guyana to CGX for the purposes of conducting exploratory drilling in an area of joint claim by the parties and beyond their respective territorial sea limit.
The Heads of Government affirmed the vital importance of settling this dispute by peaceful means in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the need to ensure that the benefits of existing resources in the area redound to the benefit of their respective peoples.
The conference recognised that both Guyana and Suriname are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which established a two hundred mile Exclusive Economic Zone beyond the limits of the coastal states' territorial sea.
It recognised that wherever states have contiguous borders, there will likely exist an area mutually exclusive to both states which create a joint interest in the area of overlap.
It was accepted that the settlement of claims by both parties in their respective Exclusive Economic Zone is contingent on the final settlement of the border dispute and conference recalled that a mechanism for the settlement of outstanding border disputes exists for the purposes of delineating the territorial boundaries between both states.
Both Guyana and Suriname expressed their commitment to the earliest resolution of outstanding border claims and pledged to act in good faith to accomplish this end. They further restated their intention to reconvene their Joint Border Commissions for dialogue in respect of these claims.
The Presidents of Guyana and Suriname agreed to meet in Jamaica within the next seven days in order to expedite a resolution of outstanding differences which have recently arisen. They also agreed to determine a modality for exploiting the benefits of the exploratory drilling activities to be undertaken in the disputed area.
In this connection, they noted a number of proposals raised earlier which include:
a. The establishment of a Joint Commission to undertake the granting of licensing activities in the area;
b. the joint superintendence of any and all activities to be carried out in the area;
c. the sharing of any data and information resulting from the exploratory activities in the area being placed on a transparent basis;
d. the equitable distribution of the proceeds deriving from any exploitative activities in the area.
These and other proposals constitute elements which could facilitate an acceptable framework for full agreement.
Both Guyana and Suriname made it clear that the right of any underlying claim subsisting in the area would be preserved without prejudice.
It was also accepted that they will have to procure the concurrence of their constitutional and institutional bodies before arriving at final agreement.
The Heads of Government were pleased to offer the good offices of the Chairman of Conference to monitor the progress of meetings related to the Joint Border Commissions.
The conference welcomed the assurances by the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname that they would do everything possible to avoid the escalation of tension and work towards restoration of normalcy in their relations as befits sister nations in the community.
They further undertook to pursue all modalities for the strengthening and deepening of relations between them.