Oil Agreement Opens Talks

Thailand and Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding Monday on disputed areas in the Gulf of Siam, agreeing that neither country will explore for oil or gas until the dispute is res­olved.

Officials also said Monday that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shin­awatra, elected just 100 days ago, plans to visit Cambodia in three weeks. The oil agreement, signed by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Cabinet Minister Sok An, clarifies a disa­greement that dates to the early 1970s, when both countries claimed territory in the gulf that may contain petroleum deposits. Both countries have awarded oil exploration contracts to private companies, but the dispute has prevented any exploration.

Sok An, who also serves as chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, said that the oil agreement “will open a new era of cooperation between our two countries.”

The Thai foreign minister agreed that it “is a very important step for our countries toward our mutual benefit.” The Thai prime minister had said that he wanted to travel to Cambodia as his first official trip, but the trip was delay­ed due to his trial on corruption charges. Surakiart Sathirathai is to depart for home late this afternoon after a two-day visit spent meeting with Cambodian officials and organizing the details of the visit. He said Monday he planned to discuss ways to boost economic cooperation between the countries, including strengthening railway and road links.

Both prime ministers will sign agreements on cooperation during the Thaksin visit, said the Thai foreign minister after meeting his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong. Cambodia is asking Thailand to open a border crossing at Chanburi province for trade purposes, a Cambodian spokesman told reporters after the foreign ministers met.

Surakiart Sathirathai was due to meet Prime Min­ister Hun Sen, co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh, Na­tional Assembly President Prince Norodom Rana­riddh, Senate President Chea Sim and King Noro­dom Sihanouk.



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