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GEORGETOWN/PARAMARIBO–Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues Birkett has expressed Guyana’s commitment to finding peaceful solutions to the border issue that still obtains with Suriname. The country’s National Communications Network (NCN) says that according to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Guyana is primarily focused on creating linkages with neighboring countries. Suriname and Guyana have a longstanding dispute regarding the Tigri area, a huge triangular shaped area in the southwestern part of Suriname.
“We should no longer hold hostage the development of helping and productive relations, as we seek to give priority to progressive issues that would link us rather than divide us,” Birkett was quoted. The foreign minister also noted the importance of diplomacy in dealing with border issues in which a number of personnel is being trained in this regard.
“In speaking with my counterparts in Venezuela and Suriname, we all agreed that borders should be lines of peace where friendship meets and not where division starts, “she said.
Birkett is not the first to raise the border issue in recent times. Previously, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo insisted that Guyana should continue cooperating with Suriname, working together on many other fronts without them giving up its claim on the Tigri territory in the southwest corner of Suriname.
Jagdeo’s statements followed on President Bouterse’s June 7th statement that Suriname will be revisiting the issue of claim on the new river triangle with a friendly settlement approach based on international law. “Let’s be clear on this; the Tigri area is our land,” Bouterse said. Guyana may claim the area, but Suriname stays true to its claim and considers the Guyanese occupation of the disputed land trespassing.
The triangular shaped Tigri area in south west Suriname has been a point of dispute between the two nations since 1840. Both countries claim the zone between the Upper Corantyne, the Coeroeni and the Koetari rivers, known to the Guyanese as the New River Triangle. Suriname considers the area part of the Coeroenie area of District Sipaliwini, whereas the Guyanese consider it part of their East Berbice-Corentyne region. Since 1969, when Guyanese soldiers forcibly claimed Tigri, the area has been under Guyanese rule, leaving the conflict simmering below the surface.
It sparked briefly in 2000, when Canadian oil company CGX started drilling in the disputed area with Guyanese authorization, and Suriname sent out its navy to stop operations. Guyana and Suriname have since put their differences on the CGX issue aside and forged a new partnership agenda to a further concretization of relations.
Suriname also has a border dispute with east neighbor French Guiana.