Jun 08, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Things are about to get intensely serious between Guyana and Venezuela as Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge has revealed that Venezuela is threatening to use force to deprive Guyana of a significant piece of its territory.
Greenidge has however declared that the Government of Guyana “will not accept this new provocation by the Venezuelan Government, sitting down.” He stated emphatically that the Government intends to “utilize all tools available to us to defend our national interest.”
The provocation to which Greenidge referenced is the fact that Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on May 27, 2015 issued a decree, extending Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s territorial waters.
A map which was issued, accompanying the decree, shows that the claim includes the area where the US giant oil company, ExxonMobil is currently drilling for oil.
Last evening, Greenidge told Kaieteur News that he and a team were still examining the contents of a May 27, 2015 edition of Venezuela’s Official Gazette that states the coordinates of what is purportedly an extension of its maritime boundary with Guyana.
He said that making sense of the decree is quite a task as it is about 27 pages in length and therefore takes quite a while to translate.
The Minister said that the decree spells out coordinates of the areas which Venezuela now defines as its surveillance zone.
Greenidge however noted that his team’s reading of the matter, at this stage, reveals that it is far more extensive and serious than the earlier press reports suggest.
He said that the Government is still in the process of working out all the implications of this new claim and wouldn’t want to say too much at this point. He did state however that the decree seeks to enshrine in national law in Venezuela what is illegal internationally.
Even more worrying, Greenidge revealed that the order carries with it the threat of force, which he pointed out, is “behaviour inconsistent with the peaceful resolution of international problems.”
Greenidge said that the decree is both a surprising and alarming one as he reiterated the fact that it is “not consistent with the expressions of fraternal and peaceful relations offered by the Government of Venezuela over the last two decades.”
However, even with the threat of force from a country which ranks 62 on a list of 126 countries of military strength around the world, and which maintains military ties with Russia which ranks second on that list, Greenidge is saying that Guyana will not just throw in the towel.
He said that the government will “utilize all tools available to us to defend our national interest.”
Greenidge did not state if the United States, the country ranked number one with military strength, has pledged unwavering support to help Guyana if, ‘push comes to shove.’
Indeed, the US had pledged support to secure Guyana’s oil wealth but it cannot be taken for granted that the support will extend to this point.
Chargé d’ Affairs of the U.S Embassy Bryan Hunt in a recent interview with Kaieteur News, had pledged to offer technical and other support to Guyana with regard to exploiting the nation’s expected oil resources. He had also said that the US will be working with Guyana to ensure that the oil wealth does not end up in private pockets.
Prior to ExxonMobil’s announcement last month that it had found a “significant” oil deposit, Venezuela had twice written to the Guyanese subsidiary of that company warning it against continuing the search for oil because that maritime area and the entire Essequibo Region — the land area from Venezuela east to the Essequibo River — were part of its territory. Guyana has issued a “strong” message to the Government of Venezuela in this regard.
Venezuela has, for decades, threatened Guyana’s sovereignty. But Guyana has over the years maintained that an 1899 ruling settled the land bordered between the two neighbours. But Venezuela has insisted that the mineral and forest rich Essequibo Region is its territory, a claim that still is in the hands of the United Nations.
The 15-nation Caribbean Community, Commonwealth and the Organization of American States (OAS), have for several decades sided with Guyana, the only English-speaking nation in South America.
These organizations supported Guyana’s position that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award has fully and finally settled the boundary with Venezuela.
The Government of Guyana has since informed CARICOM, UNASUR, the OAS, the Commonwealth as well as the United Nations Secretary General about Venezuela’s most recent claim.
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