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Regional News

May 26, 2007
Expert to visit Guyana-Suriname maritime dispute site
Stabroek News

GEORGETOWN, Guyana - An expert in the measurement of bodies of water, attached to the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, will be in Guyana on May 31 and June 1 to conduct a site visit in relation to the Guyana-Suriname Maritime dispute case.

A release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the visit of hydrographic expert David Grey was "pursuant to a Procedural Order made by the Tribunal after the end of the oral hearings. (Hydrography pertains to measurement and description of any waters.)

Grey has invited representatives of Guyana and Suriname to be present. Stabroek News understands that because of the nature of the visit the representatives would only be on hand to assist Grey, but none of the parties involved, nor Grey himself would be allowed to speak to the media since the case is being dealt with in-camera.

The in-camera hearings into the case were held in Washington in December last year and it is expected that a ruling would be made in August this year.

In February, 2004 Guyana initiated arbitral proceedings with Suriname according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Guyana invoked the proceedings in order to settle finally with Suriname the question of the maritime boundary. The matter came to a head in June 2000 when a Surinamese military gunboat forcibly evicted a CGX oil rig from Guyana's waters.

Guyana had tried in vain to reach agreement with Suriname on joint exploration and exploitation arrangements. After proceedings to settle the dispute peacefully failed, Guyana invoked the provisions of article 287 of the convention to obtain a legal, binding settlement of its maritime border dispute with the neighbouring country.

Accordingly, the tribunal is to decide whether it has jurisdiction to decide the merits of the Guyana/Suriname boundary dispute and would draw a boundary in the sea that is consistent with Guyana's request for equitable delimitation of the boundary between the two states; that the dispute would be resolved for all times in a friendly manner consistent with international law; and that the decision would thereafter be respected.

Assuming that it has jurisdiction, the tribunal would issue the award, which would essentially consist of a boundary line from the point of the coast where the sea meets the land for a distance of 200 miles.

The award would be binding on both states and it would constitute the internationally recognised maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname, which would have the consequences of committing Guyana and Suriname to exploit the resources on each side that may lie either within the sea or under the sea.

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