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Guyana warns Venezuela against enforcing maritime claim

Liza area (in white) of the Stabroek Block that has now been purportedly absorbed by Venezuela as part of its maritime zone.

Guyana on Monday warned that it will take action if Venezuela enforces a recent shift in its maritime boundary that includes an area where an American oil giant has found a significant oil deposit.

“The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wishes to make it pellucid that Decree No 1787 cannot be applicable to any part of Guyana’s territory and any attempt by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to apply that instrument in an extra-territorial manner will be vigorously resisted by the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a strongly worded statement.

The Guyana government plans to formally bring to the attention of the international community what it termed “this aggressive and illegal act by Venezuela.”

Guyana said the decree amounts to a threat to regional peace and security and breaches the Geneva Agreement of 1966 on the border controversy over the mineral and forest-rich Essequibo. “It is therefore imperative that Venezuela adheres to the principles of International Law in seeking to delineate, it’s maritime boundaries with neighbouring States pending actual delimitations,” the government said.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on May 27, 2015 issued a decree extending his country’s sovereignty over all the Atlantic coastal waters off Essequibo.

In apparent reference to the area where the United States oil company, Exxon-Mobil, found a huge oil deposit last month, the Guyana government vowed to continue work in the area.

“The Cooperative Republic of Guyana rejects this illegality which seeks to undermine our efforts  at development through the exploitation of our natural resources offshore. 

Guyana will continue, undeterred, to access and develop its resources in accordance with its Constitution and laws in keeping with the principles of International Law,” states the government.

Prior to the decree, Venezuela had twice written to the local subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil warning against continued exploration for hydrocarbons in the area. On both occasions, the Guyana government had issued strong rebuffs.

Georgetown denounced the decree as a “flagrant violation” of International Law and as one that is inconsistent with the principle of that allows States to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other States large and small.

“It is international law that must reign supreme and not the ambitions of a larger State which wishes to trample upon the rights of a smaller country in order to obstruct the sovereign right of Guyana to develop its natural resources,” the Foreign Ministry added.

The two neighbouring South American countries are yet to resolve a controversy over the Essequibo Region. Guyana continues to insist that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is the full and final settlement of the border and recognized by all States. “Venezuela also recognized its border with Guyana as settled for over sixty years having also participated in the demarcation of its established boundary which was demarcated in 1905,” says Guyana.