GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, along with high ranking officials from her ministry, on Tuesday met with Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Lackin to continue discussion on matters of mutual importance.
Rodrigues-Birkett used the opportunity to first congratulate the Surinamese government, through its foreign affairs minister for emerging victorious in the recently concluded Goodwill games, held in Guyana over the last weekend.
“Our heads have tasked us with realising the objective of not merely bringing our two countries closer together politically, but to create the mechanism for cooperation that will bring practical benefits to our people… I believe that the environment today is right to carry out the charge of our heads,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
She added that Guyana and Suriname are at the cusp of an economic advancement that has eluded both countries for too long.
“Today we are on the same economic path and we must take full advantage of both our individual and collective strengths to accelerate our development along the path that we have selected,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
There is ample opportunity for both countries to cooperate in every sector such as agriculture including fisheries, tourism, trade, education, culture and other areas such as climate change.
“The list of matters for our cooperation is wide and varied but those areas give testimony to the fact that there is much to do and achieve together,” the foreign affairs minister noted.
Guyana and Suriname are party to regional and hemispheric organisations such as CARICOM, Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Organisation of American States (OAS) and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). They are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries-OIC.
“Such memberships are expressions of our similarity in value, aspirations, commitment and obligation of both of our countries,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
The foreign affairs minister pointed out that because of the high level of trust, friendship, undertaking and solidarity, the issues that will be addressed today can be done in an atmosphere characterised by friendship and respect, evidence that Guyana’s relations with Suriname are at their best in many years.
“We must not allow this time to pass us without capitalising on the opportunities that these good relations present… I want to salute the genuine friendship and partnership that have been developed between the two countries…,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
She believes that both countries are setting an example with foreign policy coordination in several respects, therefore she is confident that examples in other areas can be set, if both countries work hard enough.
Paradoxically, the very issue that was seen as one that represents point of departure for Guyana and Suriname is now seen as one that brings them together, presenting unique opportunities for the two countries.
“We are the only two countries in CARICOM with a common land border…this gives integration a different meaning for Guyana and Suriname… Guyana and Suriname are also the two smallest states in UNASUR and we speak different languages compared to nine of the ten member states, making us a minority in UNASUR,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
The foreign affairs minister voiced her pleasure that Surinam Airways has returned to Guyana, offering direct flights to Miami and Paramaribo from Georgetown.
“This is one of the areas we discussed earlier and is a tangible demonstration of our continued collaboration… one of our local airlines -- Trans Guyana Airways, in collaboration with a local airline in Suriname -- is also offering flights to Suriname several times per week… this is important because we would like to have more people to people contact, and the air services provided certainly facilitate that,” the minister explained.
She pointed out that, while the agriculture ministers from both countries had a successful meeting at the technical level discussing issues relating to climate change, the countries’ law enforcement agencies continue to work together and positive results have thus far been forthcoming.
Suriname’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Lackin said that Tuesday’s meeting proves the excellent relations between Guyana and Suriname.
He added that too long both countries have been focusing on what divides them and not what binds them. However, Suriname’s new government has taken the decision that regional integration is one of the most important things they have to pursue.
“Within that decision, the relation with Suriname and Guyana is one of the highest on our agenda …we have looked at our geographical location and regional integration processes of which both our countries are part of… we looked at the similarities of our economy and it is clear that we should join our human capital, natural resources and make use of our unique geographical position of being part of CARICOM, UNASUR and OIC,” Lackin said.
He added that the political instrument is there for varying aspects of cooperation, and the need for South-South cooperation, and the possibility for the two countries as bridge builders between CARICOM and UNASUR is an important decision taken in Suriname’s foreign policy.
“Within two years, the relation between Suriname and Guyana has developed within such a positive direction that when we look at the relation Surinamese has with Guyana and its agencies, we are seeing a positive move by two small countries with lots of similarities,” Lackin said.
He added that there is positive development between the two countries, and is convinced that this opportunity should be taken advantage of, to show both peoples that their governments are not afraid to discuss issues that are of their importance for the continued development of both countries, making use of the rich natural and other resources that exist.
Following the meeting, a joint press statement was issued which stated that both parties agreed that meetings with agriculture, natural resources and security sectors’ officials will take place in a matter of three months “to implement outstanding activities aimed at deepening cooperation in those sectors”.
The release said that both ministers discussed the ‘back track’ trade across the Corentyne River with agreement made for its regularization. The relevant agencies of both countries are to meet on this issue.
The bridging of the river was discussed and they agreed to pursue funding with the Inter American Development for the pre-feasibility studies for the project’s realisation.
“The ministers agreed to resuscitate the discussions on the outstanding issues regarding the border between Guyana and Suriname,” the release further stated.
The next meeting would take place in six month’s time in Suriname.