Chávez advised his foreign minister to ‘tread gingerly’

in responding to on Guyana’s submission of a claim to an extended continental shelf

President Hugo Chávez said he had asked his foreign minister to “tread gingerly” in responding to on Guyana’s submission of a claim to an extended continental shelf.

The Venezuelan press yesterday reported Chávez, who recently returned to Venezuela after receiving treatment for cancer in Cuba, as saying in a telephone interview with state television VTV on Monday night that he had asked the Foreign Ministry “to send a note to the Government of Guyana making our position and our disagreement clear about some decisions they had taken with reference to the Law of the Sea.”

The Caracas daily El Universal also quoted him as telling the station: “I told Nicolás [Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro] when we heard about the issue, “tread gingerly, as always, evaluate it.”

Chávez went on to say that the decision had been taken “after several days of serious and conscientious historical, geographical and diplomatic study, giving priority to the national interest in the framework of peace.”
He was also reported as making reference to United Nations Good Officer Norman Girvan saying “…we have addressed him.” Girvan was appointed by the UN Secretary General to seek a means to a settlement of the boundary controversy between Venezuela and Guyana.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday in response to Venezuela’s statement, that under cover of a Note Verbale, the Venezuelan Embassy here had been provided with a copy of the information Guyana submitted in its claim since May 2009, except for adjusted coordinates for the outer limits of the shelf which was based on seismic data obtained after that time.

Hugo Chávez

Stabroek News made several attempts to speak to Venezuela’s envoy here, Ambassador Dario Morandy, but was unsuccessful.
On September 6, Guyana submitted a claim to an extended continental shelf to the Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to the Venezuelan government, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave them official notification of the submission the following day.

The Venezuelan Government had issued a statement on Monday in which it said it had started to “assess this irregular situation” and was taking the necessary action to preserve the law with respect to its “maritime façade.”

The vital interests of the country would be defended in a resolute manner by means of internationally established mechanisms for dialogue, the Venezuelan statement said, reiterating the Venezuelan government’s commitment to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary General.
The local Foreign Ministry’s statement yesterday said Guyana notes that the Good Offices Process has a clear mandate as stated in the Geneva Agreement of 1966. It added, however, that the Good Offices Process “relates exclusively to the resolution of the controversy that has arisen from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 that definitively delimited the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela is null and void.”

According to the Venezuelan statement, “The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, acting responsibly, has begun to evaluate this irregular situation [Guyana’s claim to an extended continental shelf] in order to give a proper response  in the context of International Law and is taking the necessary action to preserve the law in respect of its maritime façade.”

The Venezuelan government noted that its statement did not seek to prejudge the issues relating to the determination of the maritime boundary between Venezuela and Guyana, but expressed its concern that the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana had not previously informed Caracas about its submission to UNCLOS, despite the fact that avenues of communication were available, such as the Good Officer or the bilateral commissions.

The statement from Takuba Lodge said the Guyana government “wishes to state that as was made pellucid in Guyana’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Guyana’s submission of information and data pursuant to Article 76 of the [UNCLOS] is without prejudice to any future maritime delimitation exercise with neighbouring states.”

According to the Venezuelan government statement that country had “developed from day one, a foreign policy based on the defence of the sacred interests of the motherland, at the same time consolidating friendship and solidarity with the Latin American and Caribbean peoples and with special emphasis on the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, a country with which there is a territorial controversy inherited from the old colony.”
The release made reference to Chávez, who it said had implemented the correct policy of peace, sovereignty and respect for international law in relation to Guyana.

This was in contrast it went on, to the old warlike attitude and threats from the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, “whose only objective was to provoke the progressive governments of the sister republic in conformity with the designs of the centres of imperial power.”

The Venezuelan government, the release said, “rejects the campaign of intrigue that the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has unleashed by means of its propaganda and political parties which seek to manipulate the Venezuelan people who are uninformed about such a sensitive topic… that bourgeoisie is subject to the mandates of Washington and is financed with money from the empire.”

In conclusion, the Venezuelan government expressed “its maximum willingness” to build constructive relations with Guyana, but confirmed it would continue to defend the “vital interests of the country in the most resolute way through internationally established dialogue mechanisms. In this regard it reiterates its commitment to the process of the Good Offices of the United Nations Secretary General.”

The Guyana government said it also values the relations that have developed between Guyana and Venezuela in the recent past and it was in that context that it shared the information in May 2009 as well as its full submission this month.

It added: “The Govern-ment of Guyana reiterates its interest in the development of continued harmonious relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and anticipates that since [its submission] is without prejudice to future maritime delimitation exercises with neighbouring states whether within or beyond 200 nautical miles, this issue would not be allowed to adversely affect the exceptionally good relations that exist between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

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