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Guyana probing Venezuela’s claim of coastal waters including area of significant oil

An unofficial Venezuelan map showing Venezuela’s maritime area of delineation off Guyana’s Essequibo Coast.

Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge on Saturday said government would be taking appropriate action if it confirms that Venezuela has extended its claim of the Atlantic Coastal waters to include those off Guyana.

“We will ascertain first whether any such statement was put out officially by the Venezuelans and then we will approach the Venezuelans to verify what is intended and if it has any official sanctions and if it does we will take the necessary action,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Venezuela’s Official Gazette of May 27, 2015 essentially states that President Nicolas Maduro has authorized sovereignty over the coastal waters west of the Essequibo River to Delta Amacuro. If the calculations in the Gazette are accurate, it means that Venezuela is now laying claim to all the waters off Essequibo and that will include the area where the American oil company, Exxon-Mobil, recently discovered a significant oil find.

Venezuela had twice written to the local subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil warning the company against continuing oil exploration in that area where the large oil deposit was subsequently found.

Former Guyana Ambassador to Venezuela, Dr. Odeen Ishmael states on his blog that this new extension of Venezuela’s claim to Guyanese territorial waters was made ​​official in the presidential decree, No. 1787, and published in the Ordinary Official Gazette No. 40,669, dated May 27, 2015. He added that it is the second decree expressing a claim to Guyana’s territorial waters; the first, issued by President Raul Leoni forty-seven years ago in July 1968, purportedly claimed “sovereignty” over a twelve-mile strip of Guyana’s continental shelf along the Essequibo coast.

Ishmael says that a map, issued to coincide with this decree, indicates that Venezuela is now claiming all the territorial waters within the 200 miles range and blocking Guyana’s access to its resources in this area of the Atlantic Ocean. “By this decree, the Venezuela government has also created the so-called “Areas of Integral Defense of Marine Zones and Islands,” thus ratifying its maritime sovereignty over the waters of the parts of the Caribbean and off the coast of Guyana. In doing so, it now claims sovereignty over the continental shelf and a projection of the Atlantic Ocean off the Essequibo region of Guyana, and even stretching into part of Suriname’s maritime space,” adds Ishmael.

The United Nations, Commonwealth, Caricom and the Organisation of American States have long supported Guyana’s position that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award has fully and finally settled the boundary with Venezuela.