Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Relations reported that the vessels ‘Lady Nayera’ and ‘Sea Wolf’ were intercepted by the Venezuelan military vessel ‘Comandante Hugo Chávez GC 24’. According to the statement from the Guyanese authorities, both fishing vessels were operating within their jurisdiction, while the Venezuelan vessel made illegal maneuvers in its Exclusive Economic Zone. The episode adds to the tension between the two countries amid Guyana’s oil bonanza.
Two vessels registered in Guyana were detained last Saturday, January 23, by the Venezuelan military in a maritime enclave of Guyanese sovereignty, according to the government of the former British colony. Through a statement, the Guyanese authorities classified the action as “a flagrant violation of their sovereignty and the fundamental norms of international law.”
From Guyana, they affirm that the Venezuelan military vessel moved the fishing boats to the coast of Güiria, located in the Venezuelan state of Sucre, where they proceeded to immobilize the vessels and arrest their entire crew. In addition, the statement indicates that it has not yet received any explanation from the Venezuelan government.
#EnVideo 📹 | Chancellor Jorge Arreaza @jaarreaza, met with the charge d’affaires of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana 🇬🇾 Robert McKenzie, to ratify the legitimate rights of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 🇻🇪 over Guayana Esequiba.#DialogueForLaPaz pic.twitter.com/T8JwwyzojR
– Venezuela Foreign Ministry 🇻🇪 (@CancilleriaVE) January 16, 2021
Guyana has asked the international community to act in accordance with the provisions of international regulations, in what it reiterates is “an act of interference by the Venezuelan Armed Forces.”
For their part, Guyanese political leaders believe that there are links between what happened and the desire of the Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, to establish a maritime demarcation that he would call ‘Territory for the development of the Atlantic Facade’. This project would cover the waters belonging to Guyana and the terrestrial territories west of the Essequibo River.
A territorial dispute dating from 1899
At the end of the 19th century, an arbitrary court imposed a series of territorial limitations between Venezuela and Guyana, a decision that none of the Venezuelan governments have ever accepted. On the contrary, the Venezuelan authorities have always considered the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only document capable of providing a legitimate solution to the territorial problem.
2/2 Our country will not rest in the legitimate defense of its Guayana Esequiba. This territorial controversy must be settled by its only valid instrument: the 1966 Geneva Agreement. The Sun of Venezuela is born in the Essequibo!
– Delcy Rodríguez (@ drodriven2) January 23, 2021
This controversy has worsened since 2015, when US oil company ExxonMobil discovered oil wells in the disputed areas, which span nearly 160,000 square kilometers.
Just over a week ago, the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza, met with Guyana’s charge d’affaires, Robert McKenzie, to address this problem. The intention of the foreign minister was to express to him that Venezuela “will not accept” the interference of third parties “to solve this bilateral issue. A meeting that took place after hearing the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In December, the ICJ proclaimed itself as the only competent authority to judge the validity of the territorial dispute. The first hearing should begin on Monday, but Guyana’s Parliamentary Sectoral Commission on Foreign Relations has requested its postponement until April, since it considers that it has not had the time to “make the necessary considerations and consult”.
Maduro, however, has contacted António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations (UN), to activate new avenues of negotiation between the two nations.
With EFE, Reuters and local media