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Venezuela demands that Guyana immediately corrects maritime boundary

Venezuela is formally demanding that Guyana immediately corrects an aspect of its maritime boundary related to the Essequibo River.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has sent today, through the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs, a note of protest to the Guyanese government demanding immediate correction of that Point 1,” according to an unofficial translation of a statement.

That move follows the July 23 publication in Guyana’s official gazette of maritime boundaries of the major rivers and coastal waters in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But Venezuela is rejecting the regulation, saying that it establishes a western line at the mouth of the Essequibo River. Venezuela claims the entire Essequibo Region including up to the eastern bank of the Essequibo River and more recently all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Region.

Venezuela argues that the placement of Point 1 at the western end of the straight baseline corresponding to the mouth of the Essequibo River in Venezuela territory that is part of the controversy.

Caracas condemned Georgetown’s recurring provocations,” saying that the former British colony appeared bent on “stoking a conflict between brother countries” and “legitimating the imperialist pretensions against Peace the region.”

The border row between the two neighbouring South American countries flared up two months ago after Venezuela unilaterally extended its maritime boundary to take in all of the sea off Essequibo. The country also said it planned to issue Venezuelan identification cards to persons born in Essequibo.

Venezuela’s creation of an integral maritime defence zone that encompasses the sea off the Essequibo Region followed the announcement by the American oil company, ExxonMobil, that it had discovered a significant amount of high quality crude oil about 120 miles offshore.

Guyana has since virtually abandoned the United Nations mediation process and is pushing for the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to refer the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award to the World Court. Guyana maintains that that award is full, perfect and final.

Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge last Thursday explained to the National Assembly that the Section 9 of the Maritime Act gives him “the power to prescribe by regulations closing lines to delimit our internal waters and it is in this regard that the Maritime zones internal waters and river closing baseline regulations 2015 were enacted on July 23 2015.”

The regulation prescribes the closing lines across the mouths of the three largest navigable rivers of Guyana; the Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice Rivers. The regulation has been already published in the Official Gazette.

“Baselines constitute a fundamental aspect of the regime of zones of jurisdiction established by UNCLOS, since the breadth of the maritime zones under national jurisdiction is to be measured from the baselines. The baseline is also the line which establishes the outer limit of the internal waters in which the State exercises its full sovereignty,” it was noted.