[www.inewsguyana.com] – The new claim being made by Venezuela on Guyana’s territory is the subject of high-level discussions, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge.
This claim comes on the heels of the news of the discovery of a significant quantity of oil in Guyana’s internationally recognised territorial waters, several weeks ago.
Minister Greenidge said, “We have of course had, and continue to have discussions with the Ambassador who is here, with her Minister in Caracas, and indeed the President sent an envoy not so long ago, with whom we had discussions, and we’ve had an invitation from UNASUR to attend a meeting, or to agree to a meeting with Venezuela on the bilateral front. I would say that all the possible avenues are being explored. We are making sure that the avenues that should be used will be used.”
The minister pointed out that Venezuela clearly is also trying to take advantage of whatever avenue it thinks can serve it well.
“The issue that we’re faced with now is this. Venezuela has issued a decree in law, which law says this area, a very large area of the sea, not only belongs to Venezuela, but it calls upon its navy to enforce this zone, and to exclude others from the zone. Venezuela claims in justification, that the government, (and reading the papers over the last three four weeks,) it claims that the newly elected government, it says that, has been the cause of this decree because it has issued exploration rights to an oil company.”
Minister Greenidge made it clear that the area in which oil exploration is currently underway by ExxonMobil has never been the subject of any claim from Venezuela. “It is a new claim by Venezuela, not a repetition of any claim, it’s a new claim. Secondly, it is not the APNU government that issued the exploration rights, so to suggest that they have to move now because this government has gone a step too far, is not accurate.’
He added that in claiming this expanse of territory, the government of Venezuela has not demonstrated and indeed cannot show any reason for so doing.
“The principle underlying the claim hasn’t any basis whatsoever in any known formula for allocation of the ocean, save bullyism.”
The previous tactic of imperialist ‘gun boat diplomacy’ was recalled by Minister Greenidge, noting that, “It is something that made the west infamous in the east, because you laid claim to a territory, the citizens didn’t like it, and you sent a gun boat, and you then seized the territory, even locking up their kings. We’ve had that problem in Hawaii and all over the place. The basis for claims didn’t have to be demonstrated except that you had gun boats there. I have heard reference to Guyanese imperialism which I find somewhat laughable, because the gun boat diplomacy was part of an imperial exercise.”
The minister declined to hazard a guess as to what principle the Venezuelans used to arrive at their latest claim.
“Let us say that none of the bilaterals to whom I have spoken or multilaterals, can suggest the principle. This area for example where the exploration is being done, lies close, or off the coast of Demerara, it’s about 120 miles from here, you know where Caracas is, and you know where the mouth of the Orinoco is, far away. So you’d have to have been the owner of Demerara in a sense to be able to lay claim to that.”
The minister explained that there is no international principle which says every country in South America must have an Atlantic coast or have sovereignty over some section of the Atlantic sea. No law in relation to the Caribbean Sea or the Pacific.
“So there would be chaos if some president wakes up and says we must have part of the Pacific, Atlantic or Caribbean and Pacific. As regards marine territory, each country defines what it has, and goes to an international body and claims it, I am not aware that the decree is grounded in any such submission.”
Territorial issues are not a matter for countries to settle unilaterally, Minister Greenidge emphasised, and noted, that unlike most nations, Venezuela is not a party of the Law of the Sea Convention.
“If the world recognises that the apportionment of the Continental Shelf is important, and that it needs to be done in an orderly manner, all countries will have to embrace that, that’s why all countries have signed the order of the Law of the Sea who believe in it, and those who have not are not interested in it.”
There is more than one body responsible for the resources in question, Minster Greenidge stated.
“As regards Guyana and Venezuela, the rights to marine resources arise from rights to land mass, so by virtue of us occupying Guyana we have certain rights… They may not be signatory of the Law of the Sea, but it is not the sea and the lawlessness that is practiced there that determines your land mass. The land mass of Guyana is defined in a treaty, and when there was a disagreement in 2009, a court pronounced on it.”
The fact that in the case of Venezuela the borders were set out in an arbitral award which both countries agreed to, was highlighted by the minister.
“In 1899 the US whose company is exploring, forced the British to participate in a tribunal over the border, and three judges were appointed- one American, one was Russian identified by the US, and the other was British. This was not set up for Guyana, and granted to the Venezuelans the bank and the mouth of the Orinoco River where Guyana lost territory. The award was accepted and now the world has agreed that treaties are sacrosanct and cannot be reopened.”
As part of its attempt to lend some credence, Minister Greenidge noted that Venezuela said it has been giving resources to the Caribbean. This fact, the minister acknowledged, does not mean that the country should be able take their resources away.
“We find it interesting that when the question arises, Venezuela tells you of the favours they have done for the Caribbean. What does that mean; it gives them a right to operate outside international law?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is leading the effort to have this latest territorial issue addressed as quickly as possible. Minster Greenidge noted that prior to 1992, the ministry was viewed as the “Tip of the Spear” in Guyana’s defence and it has to be restored.
“We will work on all the fora, UNASUR, OAS, Commonwealth and so forth. Right now the UN Secretary General has a responsibility and we are going to call on him to exercise that responsibility because the other options have been exhausted, and therefore in order to avoid further damage to Guyana we will call upon him to carry out his duties”. [Extracted and modified from GINA]