GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Guyana's foreign minister said Saturday that he expects a U.N. tribunal to rule next month on a feud with neighboring Suriname over the rights to an undersea basin that could provide oil riches.
Rudy Insanally said the U.N. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is reviewing oral and written ownership claims to the basin, which experts estimate may hold 15 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.
"We are led to believe, after speaking to our legal teams, that the award by the tribunal is likely to be made in August," Insanally said in a statement. He said a specific date has not been given and did not provide any further details.
Guyana sought a definitive ruling from the tribunal in 2004 after talks with Suriname broke down over sharing any production from the basin, which stretches hundreds of square kilometers (square miles) from the coasts of both countries.
The dispute brought Guyana and Suriname close to war and has blocked fuel exploration.
Suriname expelled Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc. from the basin in 2000, halting its oil exploration under a Guyanese license.
CGX Energy, Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and Exxon Mobil Corp. recently met with Guyana's president to discuss exploring the basin in anticipation of the tribunal's ruling.
Surinamese officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.