Guyana rubbishes Venezuela’s latest call for cessation of oil exploration

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THE Government of Guyana on Friday rejected statements by Venezuela’s Energy and Petroleum Commission which called for Guyana to cease all on-going offshore oil exploration activities occurring in the Stabroek Bloc.
On March 15, in the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional, it was reported that the Energy and Petroleum Commission of its National Assembly said that it is convinced that the on-going oil exploration violates the 1966 Geneva Agreement as well as Article 10 of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, which states clearly that the identified location is part of Venezuela’s territory.
Venezuela has for decades been claiming Guyana’s territory despite the settling of the matter in 1899. However, in a strongly worded statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it clear that the resolution titled ‘Approved Agreement to reject oil operations in the Essequibo’ is of no substance and is riddled with factual and legal errors.
“Such deliberate provocations and absurd demands that Guyana halt all development activities, especially when for over 50 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.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs contends that the Venezuelan government has not adopted or otherwise endorsed the resolution it referenced and described the resolution as “inflammatory.”
The suggestion that offshore activities recently started in Guyana’s waters is erroneous on the ground that the Stabroek Licence was awarded in 1999 and exploration began one year later.
Additionally, the Guyana government contends that Venezuela has erroneously stated that Guyana is prohibited from developing its resources in the identified area because of Article V of the Geneva Agreement.
“But nothing whatsoever in the terms of that provision indicates that the parties cannot exercise jurisdiction over their sovereign territories. Otherwise, it would mean that for the past 50 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. Needless to say, such an argument is manifestly absurd.”
The statement noted that the “political posturing” by the Venezuelan government comes at an unfortunate time when the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Ambassador Dag Nylander as his Personal Representative to provide Guyana and Venezuela a final opportunity to resort to the Good Offices process.
A resumption of that process is aimed at resolving the on-going Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, which arose out of Venezuela’s contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award delimiting the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela is “null and void.”
The parties have until the end of 2017 to make significant progress in arriving at a final resolution of the controversy, failing which the secretary-general will refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Guyana’s position remains that the ICJ is the best suited way to conclude the controversy once and for all, but has 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.
Meanwhile, Guyana said it 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 51st anniversary of its independence from colonial rule, as a new period of prosperity awaits its people.”