Foreign Ministry condemns ‘inflammatory’ Venezuelan press reports on Guyana’s oil exploration

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned reports carried in Venezuelan press regarding the approval of a new resolution approved by the Energy and Petroleum Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly.

According to a report carried by Venezuelan daily El Nacional on March 15, the resolution, titled, ‘Approved Agreement to Reject Oil Operations in the Essequibo’ has called for the immediate cessation of ongoing offshore oil exploration and exploitation activities under Guyanese licence in the Stabroek concession block well within the maritime Exclusive Economic Zone of Guyana in accordance with international law.

The ministry, in a press statement, described the resolution as “inflammatory” as it contains both serious factual and legal errors.

“So far as the Government of Guyana is aware, the Government of Venezuela has not adopted or otherwise endorsed the resolution, in which case the Government of Guyana would respond as appropriate,” the statement noted.

The ministry wishes to point out that while the Venezuelan media report erroneously suggests that the offshore activities in Guyanese waters have “recently” commenced, the Stabroek licence was awarded in 1999 and exploration commenced the following year in 2000, 17 years ago, the release said.

Further, while it may have suggested that Guyana was prohibited from developing its resources in this area because of Article V of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, this also happens to be untrue since there is nothing in terms of that provision which indicates that the parties cannot exercise jurisdiction over their sovereign territories.

Had this been the case, it would mean that for the past fifty years, Guyana had no right to develop 70% of its territory, and the same applies to Venezuela’s development of the Orinoco region and adjacent maritime area which, like the Essequibo, was the subject of the 1899 Arbitral Award, the statement added.

The ministry is also of the opinion that such “political posturing,” comes at unfortunate time when the UN Secretary-General has appointed Ambassador Dag Nylander as his Personal Representative to provide Guyana and Venezuela a final opportunity to resort to the Good Offices process in order to resolve the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award delimiting the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela is “null and void”.

This process is expected to run until the end of 2017, at which point significant progress should have been made in arriving at a final resolution of the controversy failing which the Secretary-General will refer the matter to the International Court of Justice.

“Guyana is fully committed to the search for a full and final resolution of the controversy under the Good Offices process in the limited time that remains. Such deliberate provocations and absurd demands that Guyana halt all development activities, especially when for over fifty years Venezuela has intimidated Guyana and obstructed a resolution of the controversy in accordance with international law, only serve to undermine this final opportunity for the parties to once and for all bring an end to this matter by agreement, failing which adjudication will be the only remaining means of settlement,” the statement said.

“Guyana remains committed to friendly and neighbourly relations with the Government and people of Venezuela, but it will categorically refuse to surrender any of the sovereign rights to which it is entitled under international law, not least in this, the fifty-first anniversary of its independence from colonial rule, as a new period of prosperity awaits its people,” it added.

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