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Regional News

May 30, 2004
Guyana-Suriname maritime dispute
Stabroek News

The maritime boundary dispute between Guyana and Suriname is several months away from a hearing before the arbitral panel that would provide a legally binding decision.

Sir Shridath Ramphal QC, who heads the legal team that will present Guyana 's case to the tribunal, told Stabroek News on Tuesday in a telephone interview that the constitution of the tribunal takes a long time.

Sir Shridath and Paul Reichler , a member of Guyana 's legal team, are in Guyana to brief President Bharrat Jagdeo and Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally on the first round of consultations, held a fortnight ago in Hamburg , Germany with the President of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, Judge Dolliver Nelson.

A follow-up meeting is being held in London tomorrow and Sir Shridath said his visit now is opportune as it affords the opportunity to review the Hamburg meeting and to look forward to the London meeting.

These meetings are being used to identify the three other members of the tribunal, who together with Prof Thomas Frank, named by Guyana as its arbitrator and Prof Hans Smit , named by Suriname as its arbitrator, will comprise the panel to hear the dispute. One of the three arbitrators chosen will chair the panel.

Commenting on the time before the hearing of the dispute begins before the tribunal, Sir Shridath explains that there are lots of procedural matters to be disposed of including the exchange of memorials (written submissions) between the two sides.

With regard to a hearing on Guyana 's requests for provisional measures, Sir Shridath said, "A good deal depends on how we proceed." He explained that the request could be taken as a preliminary process or one element of the substantive issue.

Among the provisional measurers for which Guyana has applied, is an order prohibiting Surinamese authorities from harassing Guyanese fishermen operating in the Corentyne River . Another order would allow for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon and other resources in the area that Suriname is claiming as its own.

On February 24, Guyana invoked the provisions of article 287 of the Convention to obtain a legal binding settlement of its maritime border dispute with Suriname having tried in vain to reach agreement on joint exploration and exploitation arrangements pending the settlement of the dispute.

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