Even as the foreign ministers of Guyana and Venezuela are said to be arranging to meet this week with a view to hammering out an agreement on the release of the captain and crew of the research vessel Teknik Perdana, a Venezuelan newspaper is reporting that the captain is to face charges in that country.
The vessel was intercepted by a Venezuelan frigate last Thursday as it was carrying out survey works in Guyana’s Exclus-ive Economic Zone (EEZ), according to Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The vessel was then directed to shut off its survey equipment and ordered to proceed to the Isla Margarita, where it arrived on Sunday.
According to El Univer-sal online, “the Attorney General’s Office of Vene-zuela is to file charges against the Ukrainian captain of Teknik Perdana vessel, Igor Bekirov, at the Crime Control Court of Nueva Esparta state, east Venezuela, for allegedly violating Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone.”
The newspaper said a prosecutor, Andrés Bravo, has been designated and a preliminary hearing is to be held in “Nueva Esparta, on the north-eastern coast of Venezuela”, where the captain will face charges “for offences specified in Venezuelan law”.
Reuters news agency reported last evening that Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and her Venezuelan counterpart Minister of External Affairs Elías Jaua are to meet in Trinidad on Thursday.
Contacted last night, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Elisabeth Harper said no date or location have been confirmed for the meeting. She said the ministry will communicate to the media as soon as a date and venue for the meeting between the two ministers are confirmed.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said President Donald Ramotar had instructed Rodrigues-Birkett to meet Jaua, to discuss the matter of the arrest of the RV Teknik Perdana.
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, for which the Teknik Perdana was working when it was seized, said yesterday that the crew of the survey vessel was safe. “Based on the information we’ve received, the crew of the MV Teknik Perdana is safe, being treated with respect and fully cooperating with the Venezuelan authorities, said John Christiansen Director of External Communications for the company.
“We continue to work with the Government of Guyana and other relevant authorities toward the safe release of the crew and vessel,” he said in an email to this newspaper. “As we’ve stated previously, because this is an issue of sovereignty, any additional questions should be addressed by Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he added.
Approached for a comment as to whether the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) did not have a role in patrolling and protecting Guyana’s EEZ, Major Lorraine Foster, the GDF’s spokeswoman, said the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the person designated to speak on the issue.
“With regard to the incident relating to the vessel that was apprehended by the Venezuelans, please be informed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the appointed spokesperson on the matter. The GDF is in full agreement with the government’s position on this issue,” said a brief statement issued by Foster yesterday.
When Stabroek News sought a comment from the US Embassy in George-town as to efforts to ensure that the five Americans on board the Teknik Perdana are released, officials there said that they could not comment on the situation due to the US government shutdown.
In a recent interview, US Ambassador Brent Hardt had said that the US wants to have better relations with Venezuela but statements and actions on that country’s part make those relations hard to achieve. “On Venezuela, our position has been very clear. Under former President Chavez and under President Maduro as well we remain open and desirous of better relations with Venezuela and we hope we can get there,” said Ambassador Hardt. “But Venezuela continues to make statements and take actions that just make that difficult to achieve.”
Following the seizure of the vessel on Thursday, the Venezuelan government on Friday issued a statement in which it accused Guyana of breaching its territorial limits with Venezuela and called for an explanation.
The statement said that the naval vessel Yekuana reported to Venezuelan authorities on October 10, 2013, at 17:00 hrs that it had detected and intercepted the Teknik Perdana in Venezuela’s EEZ at latitude: 1° 20’ 30 ‘ N and longitude Ø57 ° 3 ‘o7’ W.
It said that it then invited the ship to cease its research work, shutdown engines and to proceed to the Isla Margarita.
In the statement, the Venezuelan government expressed “its strongest protest” at what it called “the situation that arose with respect to the activities of scientific prospecting and exploration of the continental shelf and the seabed Venezuelan, performed by the vessel.”
It also said that Venezuela expressed its “deep concern” at the way in which foreign vessels authorised by the Government of Guyana entered the territorial sea and exclusive economic zone of Venezuela without proper authorisation.
The statement said that the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana to provide a satisfactory explanation for the incursion.
It emphasised Venezue-la’s pacifist stance, while saying it will not return to situations of confrontation with Guyana. It said too that it will continue to persevere in the path opened by former President Hugo Chavez to foster relations of cooperation among peoples and strengthening the Latin American and Caribbean integration.
Meanwhile, the PPP yesterday said it welcomed the decision that the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela will meet to settle the dispute.
“The PPP has always advocated for diplomatic and peaceful alternatives to address issues of mutual concern between our neighbouring states. We firmly believe that this process has been advanced over the years to a stage where our nation enjoys cooperative and meaningful relations with our neighbours,” the PPP said.
“In the case of Venezuela, this is evidenced in a number of bilateral engagements and exchange visits between our two nations which redound to the benefit of the citizens in each state,” the PPP added.
“Hence, this recent development is to be regretted. The party supports a peaceful resolution to the current situation. The bilateral relations between our two counties must continue to develop to the mutual benefit of the Guyanese and Venezuelan people,” the PPP said.
“We support the position taken by the Government of Guyana to employ all peaceful means to resolve this unfortunate development in the shortest possible timeframe and to ensure there is no recurrence in the future,” the PPP said.