GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday December 24, 2018 – The Guyana government plans to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations (UN) over the Venezuela military intercepting a ship contracted by US oil company ExxonMobil to conduct a seismic survey in Guyana waters.
The government described Venezuela’s actions as an “illegal, aggressive and hostile act”.
The Bahamas flag-carrying research vessel, the Ramform Tethys, was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, with a total of 70 crew members on board.
The government said the ship was intercepted in Guyana’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf “at an approximate distance of 140 kilometres from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela”.
“The Government of Guyana rejects this illegal, aggressive and hostile act perpetrated by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which once again demonstrates the real threat to Guyana’s economic development by its western neighbour; an act that violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be bringing this latest act of illegality and blatant disrespect for Guyana’s sovereignty by Venezuela to the attention of the United Nations. It is also in the process of informing the several Governments of the seventy crew members of the threat to their safety. The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will also receive formal communication from the Government of Guyana on this matter.”
The US Department of State also said yesterday that the South American country of Guyana has the sovereign right to explore resources off its coastline.
“The Venezuelan Navy aggressively stopped ExxonMobil contracted vessels operating under an oil exploration agreement with the Cooperative Republic of Guyana in its Exclusive Economic Zone. We underscore that Guyana has the sovereign right to explore and exploit resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone. We call on Venezuela to respect international law and the rights of its neighbours,” it said.
The vast area west of the Essequibo River makes up two-thirds of the territory of Guyana and has been claimed by Venezuela as its own since the 19th Century, when Guyana was still a British colony. The international arbitral award of October 1899 settled the Venezuelan claim, firmly defining the disputed territory as belonging to Guyana.
But Venezuela’s claim on Guyana’s territory has been renewed since ExxonMobil made its first world class discovery at the Liza field in the 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block where more than 5 billion barrels of oil have since been found.
Guyana has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the long-running border controversy.