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Venezuela’s maritime claim impacts on the wider Caribbean- Greenidge

Guyana will warn the rest of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) that Venezuela’s recent unilateral extension of its maritime boundaries takes in the sea space of several Caribbean islands when regional leaders meet from Thursday in Barbados for their annual summit.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Carl Greenidge told AFP that his country would provide hard evidence to other member-states to prove that Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s Decree 1787 issued on May 27, 2015 could affect peace and security in the Caribbean.

“Our assessment and those of the experts we have consulted suggest that the decree in effect seeks to annex a significant portion of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of all of the Caribbean States and so it is the whole of the region that is directly affected , not indirectly affected,” said Greenidge.

The Caricom summit will be held from July 2 to 4.

Sources said that based on Guyana’s analysis, with the assistance of friendly nations, Venezuela’s maritime delineation will extend to Colombia, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat (UK), Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. “In fact, the Decree suggests that most of the Eastern Caribbean States, like Guyana, are practically devoid of an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, to which they are entitled under international law, to Venezuela’s full advantage,” states a classified document seen by Demerara Waves.

According to the Decree, Venezuela’s military is authorized to enforce the unilaterally annexed maritime space that includes the coastal waters off Colombia and the Guyanese coastal region of Essequibo.

In apparent reference to the fact that several Caribbean countries are beneficiaries of Venezuela concessionary oil deal, PetroCaribe, Greenidge hoped that the rest of Caricom would not be silenced.

“Obviously, it is for those Heads to take appropriate action, whatever the state of their current bilateral relations with Venezuela. Bilateral relations can only continue if you are a state! In a matter as fundamental as this, silence is not an option if we are to remain independent, let alone as viable states. We have to stoutly and unapologetically represent our interests and pursue fairness in the international arena,” said the Guyanese Foreign Minister.

Colombia has already dispatched a protest note to Caracas against Venezuela’s purported annexation of the coastal waters off its western neighbour.

Venezuela 60 years ago revived its claim to the mineral and forest-rich Essequibo Region, but Guyana has consistently maintained that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is the full and final settlement of the land border between the two neighbouring South American nations.

Guyana’s President David Granger, who has already stated that he wants the United Nations (UN) to settle the matter judicially in keeping with its Charter, is expected to meet with the UN Chief Ban Ki Moon in Barbados on the margins of the Caricom summit. “We have to deal with this problem once and for all in a judicial way, in a judicial manner and we are going to the United Nations and whatever the cost is take it to settlement so that future generations are not festered with this from our western neighbour,” Granger told business leaders here.

The President’s office on Wednesday announced that a high-level team from American oil giant, ExxonMobil, met with top government officials earlier this week and assured that exploration work offshore Guyana would continue despite Venezuela’s recent decree.

Guyana intends to present a dossier of instances to the Caricom summit to show a pattern of Venezuela’s aggression to buttress its claim to Essequibo.

The most recent was back in 2013 when Venezuela’s Navy intercepted a Malaysia-owned seismic research vessel that had been conducting work in a concession offshore Guyana on behalf of the Texas, United States-headquartered Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.