Venezuela disputes Guyana’s account of incident involving ExxonMobil ships

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 Venezuela Tuesday disputed Guyana’s account of what Georgetown said was the dangerous incursion into local waters after a Norwegian ship hired by ExxonMobil was “intercepted” by a Venezuelan naval vessel

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, showed off what she said was concrete evidence contradicting Guyana’s version in the case of the two Exxon Mobile vessels in the Esequibo area that occured late last month.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, showing off what Caracas claims is the evidence contradicting Guyana

Rodriquez said that Guyana had allowed the Exxon Mobile ships to enter into Venezuelan waters, describing the incident as a very serious event and a provocation.

She showed off documentation indicating that the ships were not in fact in the disputed area of Esequiba, the lines of which were settled via the Geneva Conventions of 1966.

But in his statement to Parliament last week, Attorney general and Minister of Legal Affairs Carl Greenidge said on December 22, last year, Guyana received a report from Esso Exploration & Production, Guyana Limited (Exxon Mobil) that vessels under contract by the company and its partners CNOOC of China and NEX of the USA, were intercepted by the Venezuelan Navy.

Greenidge said that the ships were performing exploratory seismic work within the Stabroek block adding ‘a reckless attempt was made by the Venezuelans to land a helicopter on the deck of one of them, the Ramform Tethys.

“That vessel was flagged by the government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and had a total of seventy crew members on board including the Captain. It was intercepted in the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at an approximate distance of 140 kilometres from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela and some 250 kilometres from Punta Playa, the westernmost point on the land border of Guyana.”

Greenidge said further indicated that on December 6, 2018, the world and its mariners, including Venezuela, had been alerted to the intended commencement of seismic work on Guyana’s EEZ.

“This alert was by way of an advisory from Guyana. Rather than speak to us Venezuelan authorities waited, tried to seize the vessel and then sent us a Note Verbal dated 20th December. It apparently had taken until 22nd December to move electronically or physically from their MoFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in Caracas to our Embassy in Caracas. Of course there is a Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown.

“Guyana’s response has been to defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights firmly, consistently, peacefully and fully in accordance with international law,” Greenidge said, adding that the “predictable Notes of protest subsequently received from Venezuela were reciprocated with immediate responses from Guyana.

“More alarmingly, on December 23, the Government of Venezuela issued a Communique asserting that the incident took place in the same area identified by Guyana but alleging that the position was ‘within the Orinoco River Delta maritime waters over which Venezuela has unquestionable sovereignty’. In other words the coordinates put out by Venezuela and Guyana were practically identical.”

Greenidge said that Guyana is aware of no incident occurring in the Orinoco Delta or its projection, much less an incident involving vessels having permission from the Guyana authorities to undertake seismic surveys there.

“It is to be noted that Venezuela’s claim to the waters lying along Guyana’s coast has until now, been based on their supposed and fictional historic ‘ownership’ of the Essequibo and therefore of its coast,” he said.

In her statement, the Venezuelan Vice President said that the ships trespassed on waters located within the territory under Venezuelan jurisdiction, and over which there is no dispute of any kind.

She said the David Granger government has violated agreements signed by both countries by granting concessions to foreign companies, such as Exxon Mobile, for their own interests.

Rodríguez also played radio communications allegedly recorded by the Bolivarian Navy as it encountered one of the ships.

She said the tape makes clear that the event did not occur in disputed waters, but in Venezuelan territory.

Venezuela has claimed the mineral-rich region west of the Essequibo river in Guyana as its own since the 19th century, a view shared even by some of Maduro’s fiercest opponents. An international tribunal ruled in 1899 that the area formed part of Guyana, which at the time was a British colony. The swath of disputed land makes up 40 per cent of Guyana.

Last year, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent the case to the International Court of Justice following a failed UN-sponsored attempt to broker a settlement.

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