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Regional News

June 18, 2004
Guyana-Suriname Border Dispute PNCR, Bouterse Party Sign Memo Towards Peaceful Settlement
Stabroek News

The PNCR and a Suriname opposition party recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) acknowledging the urgent need to resolve the border dispute between Guyana and Suriname peacefully.

According to the MOU, which was released to the media yesterday by the PNCR, the PNCR and the National Democratic Party (NDP) resolved to work for a peaceful settlement of the border dispute and called on both governments to avoid the temptation to manipulate the issue for narrow political interests. The NDP is led by Suriname strongman and ex-coup leader Desi Bouterse.

According to leader of the PNCR, Robert Corbin, in response to an initiative from the major parliamentary opposition party of Suriname, the NDP, discussions were held during the past weeks, in Georgetown and New Nickerie, Suriname aimed at fostering a better understanding and closer collaboration in the interest of the two countries.

Corbin, along with General Secretary of the PNCR, Oscar Clarke and Member of Parliament, Basil Williams travelled to Suriname last weekend to conclude the discussions with a delegation from the NDP after the MOU was signed.

Speaking at his party's weekly press conference yesterday, Corbin noted that the initiative was considered necessary by the NDP because of its assessment of the situation in Suriname, where unnecessary tensions had developed and the people were led to believe that Guyana was on a deliberate path of confrontation with Suriname.

Corbin said there was also deep concern that the increased tensions were being used for narrow political interests in domestic politics. He told the media that it was felt that the major opposition parties of both countries ought to play a more pivotal role in finding solutions to myriad problems that beset citizens. The PNCR leader mentioned that during the discussions both parties recognised that while the present problems between the two countries sprung from their colonial experience, the border dispute has been a source of tension and a distraction from the pursuit of economic and social programmes to improve the quality of life of their citizens.

The two parties agreed, according to the MOU, that despite the attainment of political independence the present state of economic development in both countries is far from satisfactory. Hence, they acknowledged the need to accelerate economic development in the states to improve the lives of citizens.

The MOU sets out that the parties agreed that urgent and peaceful resolution of the border controversy will redound to the benefit of both countries.

Moreover, the parties noted that the recent developments in the maritime boundary dispute have renewed tensions and they resolved to play a constructive role in this process by supporting the present governments to settle the issue in a mutually satisfactory manner without utilising their scarce resources which could be better used for improving the lives of citizens.

Recognising that the arbitration process has created windows of opportunity whereby other agreements can be made, the PNCR and the NDP are urging both governments and other opposition parties to create an atmosphere conducive to rapprochement so that the resources of the two countries can be urgently exploited for the benefit of citizens of both countries.

Finally, the two political parties, taking into consideration that their citizens are closely tied by historical experiences, family bonds and common interests, agreed to continue the dialogue to promote and foster good neighbourly relations, closer cooperation and friendship. Corbin told reporters yesterday that it was hoped that the initiative will go a long way towards reducing tensions between the two countries and create the climate for an early and amicable resolution of differences.

The Guyana/Suriname maritime border dispute, which has simmered beneath the surface for years, erupted in June 2000 when Surina-mese gunboats evicted a CGX oil rig from Guyana's waters. Guyana had granted CGX permission to conduct offshore oil exploration in the disputed area.

After years of bilateral meetings and other interventions, through which nothing was resolved, the government moved to the United Nations in March for a legally-binding decision under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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