Guyana seeks early settlement
Some eight months after, Guyana and Venezuela are yet to meet on the maritime boundary issue arising out of the incident last October, where a research vessel in Guyana’s maritime territory was seized by the Venezuelan Navy.
Teams of technical experts from the two neighbouring countries were scheduled to meet on the issue and examine a way forward on the delimitation of the maritime boundaries between Guyana and Venezuela ; however ,this meeting never happened. In a recent interview with the Guyana Times, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said that because of the unrest in Venezuela, the scheduled meeting with the technicians had to be postponed.
“My colleague, the (Venezuelan) Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated to me some time ago that he was optimistic that we would be able to have the meeting within a month or so, but that month has passed, ” she stated. The interview was done days before the Minister departed for Paraguay to attend the 44th Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, where she had indicated that her Venezuelan counterpart, Elías Jaua, would also be present. Minister Rodrigues-Birkett had noted that she would discuss with him a possible meeting in the near future.
“It has been a while now and we are anxious to have this first meeting take place,” she said while adding that the earlier the meeting is held, the better it will be for Guyana. The Foreign Affairs Minister acknowledged that the longer it takes to resolve this maritime boundary issue, the longer Guyana would take to fully utilise its resources.
According to Minister Rodrigues-Birkett, while there are several options around whatever decision is taken, it would be within the confines of international law. “We have said that and Venezuela have said that as well so we hope that these meetings will be held under the umbrella of the international law and whatever settlement we have come to will be governed by the same laws,” she pointed out.
The Panama-flagged Teknik Perdana was carrying out a seabed survey for Texas-based Anadarko in conjunction with Guyanese authorities, when Venezuela’s navy boarded it and escorted it to Margarita Island. Reviving a century-old issue with Guyana, Venezuela accused the ship of violating its maritime territory. The government of Guyana, retorted that the ship was well within its territory and the seizure was an act of aggression. Both the Donald Ramotar administration and the main opposition coalition A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) condemned Venezuela. A Foreign Affairs Ministry statement at the time had described the incident as “unprecedented in Guyana-Venezuela relations”. It insists that the seismic vessel, the RV Teknik Perdana, was in “Guyana’s waters when this regrettable incident took place”. The seismic vessel was contracted by Anadarko, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, based in the United States. Anadarko has a petroleum prospecting licence to search for hydrocarbons in the Roraima block offshore Guyana. According to the ministry’s statement, the Yekuma – an oceangoing offshore patrol boat that monitors the exclusive economic zone – trailed the seismic vessel before obstructing its path. Crew members were required to change their route and were directed to Margarita Island off Venezuela.
Guyana awarded Anadarko Petroleum, a deep-water exploration licence in June last year for a block named Roraima. Venezuela and Guyana have long argued about the status of the Essequibo region; an area on the border about the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, and over rights to the ocean resources that lie offshore.
At the time of the incident last year, the two countries had issued a joint statement after a meeting between its respective foreign affairs ministers, which indicated that they ratified all the points of the Joint Declaration of September 30, 2011, in Port of Spain. It was recognised that the delimitation of the maritime boundaries between the two countries remains an outstanding issue and the foreign ministers agreed that such delimitation will require negotiations.