Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Burma-Bangladesh Maritime Talks Fail

The Irrawaddy News
November 18, 2008

Burma and Bangladesh failed to resolve the simmering tension between the two countries over a disputed maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, according to Bangladeshi newspapers. Talks will resume in Burma in January.

The New Age newspaper said that the two countries ended the two-day maritime boundary delimitation talks inconclusively as both sides refused to change their positions on the method of marking the coastline of the exclusive economic zones in the Bay of Bengal.

“Myanmar[Burma] proposed a corridor in the Bay, and we have rejected it since we feel that equity should be the guiding method to settle the issue under the UN [United Nations] Convention on the 1982 Law of the Sea,” MAK Mahmood, Bangladesh’s additional foreign secretary, told reporters after the meeting on Monday.

He said the Burmese junta rejected the area claimed by Bangladesh. “So, Bangladesh’s plea is not acceptable to them,” he said.

Burma’s deputy foreign minister Maung Myint led the delegation to Bangladesh.

Dhaka’s The Daily Star reported that the next round meeting between the two countries will be held in Burma in January only four months ahead of the Burmese military regime’s deadline for maritime demarcation claims to the UN.

Burma will have to claim the maritime demarcation with Bangladesh by May 21 and the Bangladesh deadline is July 27, 2011 under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS-1982).

Burma and Bangladesh talks over the disputed area started in 1974, but the talks were put on hold for more than two decades and only resumed in January. The Dhaka meeting was the fourth round of talks following recent tension in the Bay of Bengal involving maritime vessels from both countries.

In October, the Burmese authorities sent navy ships into the area and permitted a South Korean company to explore for nature gas in the disputed area, prompting Bangladesh to position naval ships in the area.

Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the No. 2 high ranking general at the Burmese junta, visited Bangladesh in early October to attempt to resolve the tension, but the talks failed.

Burmese ruling generals reportedly discussed the dispute at a junta meeting in Naypyidaw which ended last week.

Khine Myat Kyaw, a Burmese journalist who is based in Dhaka, said the two countries are still deploying army troops near the border.

Meanwhile, Burma and China agreed to construct a US $2.5 billion oil-and-gas pipeline project China, according to Japan’s The Nikkei newspaper.

Burma’s state-own Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise will own a 49.1 percent stake while the China National Petrol Corp will have 50.9 percent. A US $1.5 billion oil pipeline, and US $1.04 billion gas line will be built, as well as oil and gas storage tanks near Burma’s Kyaukpyu Port, The Nikkei said.

The Burmese regime earned an estimated US $2.5 billion by selling nature gas to Thailand last year.

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