Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday issued a statement denouncing the Presidential Decree by Venezuela’s Nicolas Muduro in which he is attempting to extend Venezuela’s maritime zone into waters that belong to Guyana.
The extension covers an area in Guyana’s Stabroek Block where U.S oil Company – ExxonMobil – announced recently that it has encountered what could be the first major oil find in Guyana.
On Saturday, former Guyana Ambassador to Venezuela, Odeem Ishmael confirmed the extension of Venezuela’s claim.
While there have been statements made since the decree, in its first official statement on the issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it regarded the Decree as a flagrant violation of International Law and believes it is inconsistent with the principle that all States should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other States, large and small.
“Guyana rejects this illegality which seeks to undermine our efforts at development through the exploitation of our natural resources offshore,” the statement added.
It said that Guyana will continue undeterred to access and develop its resources in line with the principles of International Law. “…Guyana wishes to make it pellucid that Decree No. 1.787 cannot be applicable to any part of Guyana’s territory and 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. In light of this Guyana will spare no effort in bringing to the attention of the international community this aggressive and illegal act by Venezuela”, the Foreign Ministry statement said.
The statement added that the Decree disregards International law, presents a threat to regional peace and security and breaches the Geneva Agreement of 1966. This decree is the first major confrontation by the Venezuelan government against the new APNU+AFC administration in Guyana which assumed power less than a month ago following the general elections on May 11.
By this decree, the Venezuela government has also created the so-called “Areas of Integral Defense of Marine Zones and Islands,” thus ratifying its maritime sovereignty over the waters of the parts of the Caribbean and off the coast of Guyana. In doing so, it now claims sovereignty over the continental shelf and a projection of the Atlantic Ocean off the Essequibo region of Guyana, and even stretching into part of Suriname’s maritime space.
In March, the government issued a strong message to the Government of Venezuela over Venezuela’s decision to write the Exxon Mobil oil company objecting to its decision to begin drilling for oil in the Guyana waters.
The Government of Guyana had informed CARICOM, UNASUR, the OAS, the Commonwealth as well as the United Nations Secretary General about this recent action by Venezuela. Venezuela continues to claim some parts of Guyana’s territory as its own although settlement on the issue was completed decades ago.
The Guyana Defence Force has since made it clear that it is ready to defend Guyana against any intrusion by Venezuela. (Kurt Campbell)