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Venezuela blames Exxon Mobil for row with Guyana over disputed waters

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

CARACAS, June 10, 2015 (AFP) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday blamed Exxon Mobil for strains with neighboring Guyana over disputed territorial waters, and said diplomacy should ultimately win out.

A decree issued by Caracas on May 27 lays claim to waters off the Essequibo River region, a disputed territory that borders Venezuela and encompasses more than half of Guyana.

The Venezuelan action came less than a month after Exxon Mobil said it had made a significant discovery in an offshore concession granted by Guyana.

In its statement Monday, Guyana s foreign ministry said the Venezuelan decree was a violation of international law and a threat to regional peace and security.

“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,” the foreign ministry statement said.

It also stressed that Guyana would continue to access and develop its offshore natural resources.

Venezuela, which earlier called its neighbor s language offensive, has described its own decree as “an administrative norm directed at organizing the everyday work of maritime supervision and protection.”

Then Maduro on Tuesday said Guyana s President David Granger should not let Exxon Mobil shape his opinions or influence his decisions.

“It is Exxon Mobil that is behind all of this,” Maduro said, adding that he had instructed the foreign ministry to press forward with diplomatic efforts to settle the disputes.

“With dialogue, and diplomacy, we should be able to iron out these historical differences,” Maduro said in an address on state television.

Guyana needs to “not take bad advice from Exxon Mobil or from (local officials) bribed by Exxon Mobil,” Maduro went on.

Guyana, a former British colony, maintains that the land boundary was settled in 1899 by a court of arbitration set up after a crisis that prompted the United States to intervene in favor of Venezuela against Britain, asserting the Monroe Doctrine.

Venezuela has never recognized the line, and the controversy has simmered ever since, extending in recent years to maritime rights off the disputed area.

In 2013, Venezuela s navy intercepted a Malaysian-owned oil exploration vessel in an offshore concession that Guyana granted to the Texas, US-based oil company Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.