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Venezuela disputes Guyana’s account of incident involving ExxonMobil ships

Published:Wednesday | January 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela:

Venezuela has disputed Guyana's account of what Georgetown said was the dangerous incursion into local waters after a Norwegian ship hired by ExxonMobil was "intercepted" by a Venezuelan naval vessel.

Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez showed off what she said was concrete evidence contradicting Guyana's version in the case of the two ExxonMobil vessels in the Esequibo area that occured late last month.

Rodriquez said that Guyana had allowed the ExxonMobil ships to enter into Venezuelan waters, describing the incident as a very serious event and a provocation.

She showed off documentation indicating that the ships were not in fact in the disputed area of Esequiba, the lines of which were settled via the Geneva Conventions of 1966.

But in his statement to Parliament last week, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Carl Greenidge said that on December 22 last year, Guyana received a report from Esso Exploration & Production, Guyana Limited (Exxon Mobil) that vessels under contract by the company and its partners, CNOOC of China and NEX of the USA, were intercepted by the Venezuelan navy.

Greenidge said that the ships were performing exploratory seismic work within the Stabroek block, adding that a reckless attempt was made by the Venezuelans to land a helicopter on the deck of one of them, the Ramform Tethys.

"That vessel was flagged by the government of the Common-wealth of The Bahamas and had a total of 70 crew members on board, including the captain. It was intercepted in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at an approximate distance of 140 kilometres from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela and some 250 kilometres from Punta Playa, the westernmost point on the land border of Guyana."

Greenidge further indicated that on December 6, 2018, the world and its mariners, including Venezuela, had been alerted to the intended commencement of seismic work on Guyana's EEZ (exclusive economic zone).

Venezuela has claimed the mineral-rich region west of the Essequibo river in Guyana as its own since the 19th century, a view shared even by some of Maduro's fiercest opponents. An international tribunal ruled in 1899 that the area formed part of Guyana, which at the time was a British colony. The swathe of disputed land makes up 40 per cent of Guyana.

Last year, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent the case to the International Court of Justice following a failed UN-sponsored attempt to broker a settlement.