Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Bangladesh and Burma in oil row

By Alan Johnston
BBC News

Bangladesh naval vessel (archive image)
The two sides are engaged in a naval stand-off

Bangladesh says it will send diplomats to Burma to try to resolve a territorial dispute between the two nations in the Bay of Bengal.

Naval vessels from both countries are facing one another after the Burmese side reportedly began exploring in the area for oil and gas.

Bangladesh insists that the area lies well within its waters and has formally protested over the issue.

Burma has so far made no public statement on the dispute.

According to Bangladeshi sources, the dispute is taking place about 50 nautical miles south-west of an island called St Martin's.

It has protested to Burma over "an incursion" by Burmese vessels over the weekend.

There were reportedly four exploration ships escorted by two naval craft.

Map of Bangladesh and Burma
Bangladesh has demanded that the Burmese withdraw until the maritime boundary can be agreed through negotiations.

The Bangladeshi diplomatic mission is being despatched to Rangoon in an effort to defuse the escalating row.

But for now, at least, the Burmese flotilla is understood to be holding its position, and vessels from the two countries' navies are watching one another warily.

Neither side is likely to back down easily.

Experts believe that the Bay of Bengal may prove to be rich in natural resources, and both poverty-stricken nations will be very keen to hold on to as much of it as they possibly can.

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