Guyana, Venezuela foreign ministers to meet on arrest of boat

Guyana’s and Venezuela’s foreign ministers are to meet in the coming week on the arrest by the Venezuelan navy of a US-contracted vessel doing seismic work in this country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The detention on Thursday of the RV Teknik Perdana is the most serious diplomatic incident between the two countries for the last few years and comes at a difficult time for both administrations.

Announcement of a meeting signals that there may be no quick end to the incident in which the vessel contracted by the US oil explorer Anadarko was seized and forced to travel to Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

The following press release was issued by the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs this evening.

“Upon the directive of His Excellency President Donald Ramotar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, M.P., made contact on October 11 with the Minister of External Relations of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, His Excellency Elías Jaua to discuss the matter of the arrest of the RV Teknik Perdana by a Venezuelan naval vessel on October 10, 2013.

“The Ministers agreed that dialogue was essential in an effort to find a peaceful solution to this matter as well as in preserving the relations which had developed between the two countries in recent years.   In this regard, they agreed to meet in the coming week.”

The stakes will be high for Guyana as a similar stand-off to the west with Suriname took years to resolve. Guyana’s leverage in this matter will also be seen to be weaker from the outset as Caracas has in recent years extended concessionary terms for the supply of oil to Georgetown and is buying up large amounts of local rice for which there won’t be ready hassle-free markets in the region.

A further complication is the involvement of a US vessel. Deteriorating relations between Caracas and Washington will further colour the disagreement and may harden sentiment in Venezuela.

The seizing of the vessel is a further setback for Guyana’s stop-start oil exploration programme and may have the effect of dissuading other explorers from engaging in offshore concessions in Guyana’s western Atlantic waters.

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