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Cablegate: Bangladesh Seeks Technical Assistance to Demarcate

VZCZCXRO4324
RR RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0884/01 2560854
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 130854Z SEP 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9433
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0107
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2164
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0064
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0753
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0067
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2914
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 0139
RHHMHAA/COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0183
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000884

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/INSB, OES, IO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SENV ENRG EWWT PBTS PHSA EPET BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH SEEKS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO DEMARCATE
BAY OF BENGAL TERRITORIAL WATERS

DHAKA 00000884 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 5.

Summary
-------

2. (SBU) The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) is seeking
foreign aid for a survey of the nation's continental shelf in
the Bay of Bengal. According to the GOB, Bangladesh requires
a seismic survey of 4,000 kilometers in the Bay of Bengal to
bolster its case for maritime borders under the UN Convention
on Law of the Sea. This request may be raised by Foreign
Minister Dipu Moni during her upcoming visit to Washington.
Please see paragraph 6 for the full text of the diplomatic
note requesting this assistance.

Bangladesh seeks to bolster its Bay of Bengal claim
--------------------------------------------- ------

3. (SBU) Bangladesh, India and Burma have conflicting views
on the demarcation of territorial waters in the Bay of
Bengal, which has the potential to be a rich source of oil
and natural gas. U.S. firm ConocoPhillips was a winning
bidder for oil/gas exploration of eight offshore blocks
following a 2008 GOB tender, but boundary disputes with Burma
have forced the GOB to award only two of the eight blocks to
Conoco pending a resolution of the boundary issue. (NOTE:
Conoco's award documents were reportedly signed by the Prime
Minister on September 9. END NOTE.)

4. (SBU) Mission Dhaka has learned the GOB simultaneously
sent this same request to the German, French, Norweigan,
Dutch and Canadian missions in Dhaka. We are in touch with
the missions to ascertain whether these governments will
provide assistance. We have heard unofficially that the
German government cannot fund such a survey but would be
willing to "coordinate with other donors." The Germans also
plan to offer lessons learned from its experience with the
1969 North Sea Continental Shelf case.

Comment and Action Request
--------------------------

5. (SBU) While keeping in mind the U.S.-India strategic
partnership, there are U.S. economic interests in assisting
Bangladesh, given the potential benefit to U.S. firms like
ConocoPhillips. Although a survey of this size and scope may
be practically and financially impossible, there may be ways
to provide a small measure of support. We understand the
U.S. Geological Survey conducted an onshore survey in
Bangladesh in approximately the year 2000. Perhaps the USGS
has off-the-shelf information that it could share with
Bangladesh. We request that the Department consult relevant
agencies, like the USGS, and advise Mission Dhaka of the
USG's ability to meet this GOB request.

Text of GOB request
-------------------

6. (U) Quote: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of
the People's Republic of Bangladesh presents its compliments
to the Embassy of the United States of America in Dhaka and
with reference to the national obligations under the UN
Convention on Law of the Sea - 1982 (UNCLOS) has the honor to
inform that the Ministry is currently preparing its
submission for the Commission on the Limits of the
Continental Shelf (CLCS) using both public domain data
available on Bay of Bengal and primary data collected by own
means. It may be noted that, Bangladesh ratified the UNCLOS
in 2001 and as per relevant provisions of the Convention, it
will make its submission to the CLCS to delineate its Outer
Continental Shelf in the Bay of Bengal by July 2011. However,
in compliance with the technical guidelines of CLCS,
Bangladesh deems it necessary to conduct a dedicated seismic
survey in specific parts of the Bay of Bengal before its
final submission. Given the expertise and experience of
United States of America, the Government of Bangladesh would
like to request for US assistance in this regard.

DHAKA 00000884 002 OF 002

It may be mentioned that, the technical assistance Bangladesh
looks for would include the acquisition of data by surveying
a 4,000 km line (approximately) in the Bay of Bengal,
processing, interpretation and submission of those by an
appropriate US agency in a manner compatible with the
requirements of CLCS. Considering the extremely short time
available before submission, the Government of Bangladesh
would appreciate if the entire task could be completed by
June 2010 (acquisition and processing by March 2010 and
interpretation and submission by June 2010).

The Ministry has the honour to further inform that, in case
the cost involved cannot be covered under the existing
framework of bilateral cooperation, the Government of
Bangladesh would be willing to undertake the survey on
joint-funding basis.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People's
Republic of Bangladesh avails itself of the opportunity to
renew to the Embassy of the United States of America the
assurances of its highest consideration. End Quote.
MORIARTY

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