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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN911
2006-05-26 19:08:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

BARBADOS/TRINIDAD MARITIME BOUNDARY DISPUTE: THE

Tags:   PBTS  EPET  EFIS  PREL  BB  TT  XL 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWN #0911/01 1461908
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261908Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2574
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1443
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHCV/USDAO CARACAS VE PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000911 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2016
TAGS: PBTS EPET EFIS PREL BB TT XL
SUBJECT: BARBADOS/TRINIDAD MARITIME BOUNDARY DISPUTE: THE
INSIDE STORY

REF: BRIDGETOWN 635

Classified By: DCM Mary Ellen T. Gilroy for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
Permanent Secretary Teresa Marshall invited representatives
from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. to the MFA for a private
briefing on the recently settled Barbados/Trinidad maritime
boundary dispute. Marshall painted a picture of slippery
Trinidadian negotiators operating in bad faith and putting on
a show to keep Barbados from going to arbitration. Marshall
characterized Barbados' assertion of historic fishing rights
off Tobago as a "long shot" negotiating position rather than
a serious claim. She said the Government of Barbados (GOB)
is glad to have the case resolved and soon plans to solicit
bids from oil companies for the right to prospect for oil in
the no-longer-disputed territory. She was less optimistic on
the possibility of quickly concluding a fisheries agreement
with Trinidad. To formalize its other maritime boundaries,
the GOB plans to assert a continental shelf claim to the east
and negotiate firm maritime borders with Guyana in the south
and France (Martinique and Guadeloupe) in the north. End
Summary.



2. (SBU) Barbados MFA Permanent Secretary Teresa Marshall
called Chiefs of Mission from the U.S., U.K., and Canada to a
private MFA briefing May 17 to explain further the April 11
ruling on the Barbados/Trinidad and Tobago maritime boundary
dispute handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in
the Hague (reftel). Both countries initially claimed victory
in the dispute. Perhaps in reaction to this ambiguity,
Marshall sought to clarify Barbados' position and give a
behind-the-scenes view of the dispute from the GOB
perspective.



--------------------------


Shady Trinis


--------------------------





3. (C) In a series of anecdotes accompanied by several maps
on Powerpoint, Marshall took the assembled group through the
history of the case. She described Barbados PM Owen Arthur's
2004 decision to take the case to arbitration as a last
resort, after several rounds of fruitless negotiations with
Trinidad. She hypothesized that Trinidad was motivated by
its oil and gas unitization deals with Venezuela and the
desire to exploit undersea oil and mineral wealth from as
large an area as possible. Marshall indicated that Trinidad
had an aggressive initial claim (far north of the eventual
arbitral award), and maintained the same position throughout
five rounds of bilateral negotiations. She offered a litany
of charges against the Trinidadian side to back up her
statement that Trinidad had negotiated in bad faith while
trying to establish "squatter's rights" by scheming to drill
oil wells in the disputed territory.




--------------------------


Case Timeline


--------------------------





4. (C) Although Barbados and Trinidad had been negotiating
bilaterally on this dispute since 2000, events began
escalating in 2003 when Barbados and Guyana concluded
negotiations on a bilateral Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
treaty. Those two nations asserted that a 1990 maritime
boundary treaty between Trinidad and Venezuela unfairly
carved up areas claimed by Barbados and Guyana. Barbados
Prime Minister Owen Arthur and Guyanese President Bharrat
Jagdeo cornered Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning in
2003 at an international conference and extracted a pledge
from Manning to ask his Cabinet to review the 1990 treaty.
(Note: Marshall pointed out that Manning was the opposition
leader in 1990 and had originally opposed the treaty with
Venezeula. End note.) At this same time, GOB frustration
with Trinidad was building as the fifth round of bilateral
boundary negotiations ended with no change in the aggressive
Trinidadian claim. The straw that broke the camel's back
occurred when Trinidad arrested several Barbadian fishermen
off the coast of Tobago in 2004. PM Arthur immediately
imposed monitoring licenses on CARICOM imports (a first step
towards trade sanctions against Trinidad) and called PM
Manning to Barbados for an emergency meeting.



5. (C) When the urgent meeting convened in Barbados in early
2004, PM Manning took a hard line, insisting the 1990 treaty
was unchangeable. Marshall quoted Manning as saying, "If you

want to take me to court, go ahead." The GOB took that
statement as a clear sign Trinidad was unwilling to
negotiate. Marshall said the GOB had an internal discussion
and decided to take the case to the Hague. As she put it,
there were three reasons for the Barbados decision: 1)
Trinidad was clearly unwilling to negotiate, 2) Trinidad had
worked out oil and gas unitization deals with Venezuela
affecting the disputed territory without input from Barbados
or Guyana, and 3) Trinidad was filibustering on fisheries by
not negotiating seriously. Furthermore, the possible start
of Trinidadian oil exploration in disputed territory could
give them "squatter's rights" that would hurt the GOB
position during arbitration.



--------------------------


Barbados' Position


--------------------------





6. (C) Barbados initiated its case at the Permanent Court of
Arbitration in the Hague on February 16, 2004. When the
Hague case began, Trinidad cut its aggressive claim to the
north nearly in half, further fueling the GOB perception that
its CARICOM neighbor had been negotiating in bad faith.
Barbados based its case on three arguments: 1) The
maintenance of traditional fishing grounds off the coast of
Tobago, 2) Boundary delimitation based on a median line
between the two countries, and 3) Non-recognition of the 1990
Trinidad-Venezuela maritime boundary treaty.



--------------------------


Trinidad's Position


--------------------------





7. (C) According to Marshall, maritime boundary
negotiations ordinarily start at the median line between the
two countries and then each side presents special
circumstances that would warrant a deviation from the median.
Trinidad started with a claim well past the Barbados side of
the median. It supported its claim by arguing that Trinidad
has a longer coastline than Barbados. (Note: Marshall
called the Trinidadian methodology "novel" and not based on
generally accepted practices of maritime delimitation. End
Note.) Marshall disclosed that at one point Trinidad was
even willing to lay claim to the seabed and give Barbados the
water above. She found this proposal humorous, and observed
it was not a workable solution.



--------------------------


The Award


--------------------------





8. (C) As covered in reftel, Trinidad eventually received
315 square nautical miles over the median line. Marshall
said this award was made in deference to its longer
coastline. Importantly, Trinidad is cut off at the 200
nautical mile mark and cannot lay claim to the continental
shelf. Barbados, however, does have access to the shelf and
must make a formal claim by 2009. Also, Marshall remarked
that the ruling indirectly affected Trinidad's 1990 treaty
with Venezuela. The Hague court decided that a small sliver
of EEZ given to Venezuela in that 1990 treaty was not
Trinidad's to give. To keep control of that area, Venezuela
would have to negotiate with Guyana. The next step for
Barbados is to formalize its other maritime boundaries. The
GOB plans to assert a continental shelf claim to the east and
negotiate firm maritime borders with Guyana in the south and
France (Martinique and Guadeloupe) in the north.



--------------------------


Fisheries


--------------------------





9. (C) According to Marshall, Trinidad kept bilateral
fisheries negotiations going purely to keep Barbados from
going to arbitration. As an example of Trinidadian
posturing, Barbados Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley (the
GOB lead in this case) said in a post-ruling presentation to
parliament that Trinidad offered "to allow Barbadian
fishermen access off Tobago during the months of April and
May even though it is well known to all and sundry that it
was during November to February that the flying fish are
found in the waters off Tobago." Marshall also conveyed the
GOB's view that Trinidad had delayed the creation of a
Barbados-Trinidad joint scientific committee on fisheries,
blocked progress on a common CARICOM fisheries policy,
falsely claimed that overfishing was reducing flying fish

stocks, and greatly exaggerated the number of Barbadian
fishermen operating near Tobago.



10. (C) Although the panel decided it did not have
jurisdiction to rule directly on the fisheries dispute, it
made a statement binding the two sides to work out a
bilateral agreement (reftel). Marshall said even this
statement by the panel was a small victory, and only came
about because of a throwaway comment that John Jeremy, the
Trinidadian Attorney General and lead negotiator, made during
his country's closing statement to the arbitrators. He
remarked, "We would be happy to negotiate a bilateral
fisheries agreement with Barbados." The panel took him at
his word and made his statement binding upon the Government
of Trinidad and Tobago. Marshall expressed doubt that the
GOB could quickly conclude a fisheries agreement with
Trinidad.

---
Oil
---



11. (C) As mentioned reftel, oil exploration rights have
been at the heart of this dispute. Marshall explained that,
at the time arbitration began in 2004, the GOB instituted a
moratorium on offshore exploration in its waters. Now that
the Hague court has made its ruling, the GOB plans to quickly
solicit bids for exploration licenses and has sent a letter
to that effect to interested companies. Previous prospecting
for oil by ConocoPhillips was unsuccessful and that company
relinquished its license in 2004. The GOB, however, remains
hopeful that someone can find oil in its newly defined
maritime territory. ExxonMobil has expressed interest in
bidding for the license, and other companies will likely
follow suit.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





12. (C) This maritime boundary dispute had sown discord
between CARICOM partners Barbados and Trinidad for years.
Now that the matter is settled, the two sides should be able
to move on and repair the damage to their relationship.
Barbados Deputy PM Mottley used the old adage, "Good fences
make good neighbors" in her parliamentary statement to
describe how the ruling would ease tensions between the two
countries. Although admittedly one-sided, Marshall's account
offers a rare inside glimpse into one of the many internecine
battles within CARICOM. Such squabbles over boundaries,
trade, and immigration have generated mistrust between
countries and made the regional integration process slower
and more difficult.
KRAMER