Guyana probes reports of Venezuelan aircraft mapping Essequibo Region

Last Updated on Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 22:53 by Denis Chabrol

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge on Wednesday said Guyana has complained to United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon about “illegal” over-flights by Venezuelan aircraft and this country has also asked for international help in gathering information about those incursions.

“I believe that they are irresponsible and dangerous and we have said as much to the Secretary General of the UN (Ban Ki Moon). It is something we view with the greatest of concern,” he said.

Speaking with reporters at the Georgetown Club, he said the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has been tasked with defining this latest aggression which violates international law. “Information has been provided to the GDF with a view to them following it up and substantiating it,” he said.

Greenidge did not disclose who is providing international help to Guyana in verifying Venezuelan reports that the over-flights were being conducted over the Essequibo Region. “We propose to use that,” he said.

Reports out of Caracas are that the aerial operations are being done to map Essequibo for a new Venezuelan atlas.

The Guyanese Foreign Minister acknowledged that Guyana does not have the capacity to monitor all of its air and sea-space; something that former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief-of-Staff, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips referred to in address at his Change-of-Command Parade. “However, we all must now recognise the need for the almost immediate acquisition of air and maritime assets to safeguard our patrimony in order for us to exercise greater maritime domain awareness over our Exclusive Economic Zone and to have a faster operational reach into our hinterland and border regions,” he has said.

Around mid-2015, Venezuela had unilaterally annexed all of the Atlantic sea off the Essequibo Region, sparking off a volley of diplomatic protests by Guyana at all regional and international fora.  Venezuela has since modified that decree slightly.

Venezuela claims the mineral and forest-rich Essequibo Region as well as the Atlantic sea offshore that area.

Weary of the fruitless two-decade old United Nations Good Officer mediation process, Guyana wants the UN Chief to send the border controversy to the World Court in keeping with the Geneva Agreement. The outgoing UN Chief says he will conduct an assessment of the situation by next month, following the recent dispatch of senior UN officials to Caracas and Georgetown in recent months.