Punta Playa commencement point for Guyana’s maritime boundary

-foreign minister affirms

Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett says that the commencement point for Guyana’s maritime boundary with Venezuela is Punta Playa (Point Playa).

Speaking to Stabroek News recently, Rodrigues-Birkett said that going into any technical meetings with Venezuela, “that is the point from where our border starts as of 1899, that’s where we are starting from…and it is from Punta Playa,” going on to confirm that this applied to the maritime boundary as well, after being pressed by this newspaper.

A Guyanese technical team is due to meet its Venezuelan counterpart on the delimitation of the maritime boundary shortly.

The minister declined to disclose the identities of the members of the technical team, although she said it comprised both local and international experts and that provisions had been made for it in the 2014 Budget.

She stated that the international advice was welcome, and also advised that maritime issues would not be resolved overnight.

A technical meeting with the Venezuelans was initially arranged for February after the oil exploration vessel, the MV Teknik Perdana, under indirect contract to the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation was expelled from Guyana’s waters and escorted to Margarita by a Venezuelan navy vessel on October 10 last year. However, owing to the protests in Venezuela, the meeting was postponed.

The exploration vessel had been operating in Guyana’s Roraima Block with a view to determining whether hydrocarbons in commercial quantities existed there. As a result of the seizure further plans are now on hold.

The minister told Stabroek News that there are two separate issues: the controversy over the land border, and the maritime dispute; however, the land boundary was settled as far as Guyana was concerned by the Arbitral Award of 1899.

She went on to say that where the maritime delimitation was concerned, Guyana was applying the equidistance principle, but that at this point, since no technical discussions had taken place, she was not aware of what principle Venezuela had applied to determine that the Teknik Perdana was in their jurisdiction.

On October 15 last year the minister had met with her Venezuelan counterpart Elías Jaua in Trinidad to discuss the seizure of the oil exploration vessel by Venezuela’s navy.

Rodrigues-Birkett had said at that time that the Guyana delegation had provided geographical evidence inclusive of coordinates demonstrating that the vessel had been within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In October 2013 too, Rodrigues-Birkett was reported by the Guyana Times as saying that while Guyana and Venezuela commenced their lines from the same point, they then diverged.

She described the point in question as being the “correct point” but did not clarify exactly what that was.

Observers say that any commencement point other than Punta Playa for the maritime boundary would undermine Guyana’s land border as laid down in the 1899 Award.

Meanwhile Rodrigues-Birkett said that the death of United Nations (UN) Good Officer in the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, Jamaican Professor Norman Girvan was definitely a loss.

Girvan had been doing an excellent job, she said, and the process to find a replacement would be difficult. The Good Officer’s passing notwithstanding, Ralph Ramkarran would continue to act in his capacity as Guyana’s facilitator in the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.

When asked if Ramkarran would be part of the technical team which will meet the Venezuela representatives, the minister did not respond.


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