September 17, 2021

Russian foreign minister to visit Guyana and Suriname; Bouterse and Granger to meet in December

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By Ray Chickrie From Caribbean News Now

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will make his first visit to Guyana and Suriname, and the president of Guyana, David Granger, will also visit Paramaribo in December for talks with his Suriname counterpart, President Desi Bouterse.

The dates of these meetings and visits are not yet finalized but are in the process of being determined, according to the foreign minister of Suriname, Yildiz Pollack-Beighle, who disclosed this information last week during a press briefing in Paramaribo.

Both Yildiz Pollack-Beighle and her Guyanese counterpart, Carl Greenidge, have previously travelled to Moscow and met with Lavrov. Pollack-Beighle and Lavrov will again hold a bilateral meeting during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly currently taking place in New York.

If the visit does materialize, it will be the first such high level visit of a Russian foreign minister to Guyana and Suriname.

Recently, Suriname has received high level visits from the foreign ministers of China and Turkey. The president of India, Ram Kovind, was also in Suriname. The Ashanti King of Ghana will visit Suriname in November.

At the UN this week, Pollack-Beighle will hold bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of India, Russia and Thailand. The Guyanese and Surinamese foreign ministers will also attend meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries.

In addition, Greenidge will hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Norway and Côte d’Ivoire. Guyana is expected to seal diplomatic ties with Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and other West African nations.

Russia may announce the reopening of an embassy in Paramaribo during Lavrov’s visit. Turkey will also open a mission in Suriname.

Suriname and Guyana are moving to liberalize their visa policies to attract trade and tourism. The two countries have removed visa requirements for many Latin American countries, but there is still a so called “blockade” against Asian, Arab and Muslim countries. With the help of Turkey, Suriname plans to set up an e-visa platform, which Turkey and Azerbaijan have mastered. Turkey and Suriname are also expected to enter a visa-free regime and sign a liberal air agreement in the first quarter of 2019.

Only recently, Suriname and Serbia removed the visa requirement for their nationals visiting each other’s country. Pollack-Beighle plans to work on more visa-free agreements with the European Schengen Area, she disclosed.

All these developments, along with the mega oil discovery off the coast of Guyana, will require the cooperation of Guyana so that both countries will avoid “undesirable” visitors. Suriname recognises the issue of national security that comes with a visa-free policy. However, the foreign minister said that this “should be taken care of by the security forces responsible for border control and security.”

“Visa-free entry or on a tourist card does not mean that it is a walk-in and walk-out of the country,” she noted.

Pollack-Beighle said that, based on existing partnerships, friendly countries also share information with Suriname about suspicious travellers. This sort of cooperation has kept “several undesirable people out of Suriname in the last few months”, she added.

“You can only protect your boundaries by doing it together. We have open borders and we will be able to achieve security at the border in the west only in cooperation with Guyana. The same goes for the east and the south,” she explained.

In December, when Granger visits, issues relating to the common border area will be discussed. These include cross-border crime, the movement of persons, trade and, possibly, the border dispute in the southwest of Suriname.

IMAGE: (L-R) Guyana President David Granger (seated) with Foreign Ministers Carl Greenidge (Guyana) and Yildiz Pollack-Beighle (Suriname) in Jeddah

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