In light of Venezuela’s heightened aggression which saw the recent illegal detention of two Guyanese registered vessels and their respective crews on January 21, last, many have expressed concerns about the possible interference or disruption of Guyana’s oil production activities being led by ExxonMobil and partners in the Stabroek Block.
But President Irfaan Ali and a high-level team of officials that includes his Chief of Staff, Brigadier Godfrey Bess; Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, and Advisor on Borders, Carl Greenidge, were all keen to note that the activities within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) must essentially continue and will be protected.
During his address to the nation this afternoon, Ali said that the nation’s international partners also share in this commitment while adding that there remains a joint condemnation of Venezuela’s continued disregard for the 1899 Arbitral Award which categorically places the Essequibo region within Guyana’s territorial sovereignty.
Following the illegal detention of the Guyanese fishermen and their vessels, Ali said that the way forward will continue to be in line with diplomacy as the country pursues a judicial recourse via the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In providing a chronicle of the renewed aggression by Venezuela, the Head of State reminded that it was on January 7, last, that President of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro issued a decree in which he purported to establish a new maritime boundary that includes the Essequibo region. Even after this saw absolute criticism from Canada, the USA, CARICOM, and the Organization of American States, Ali expressed his disappointment that it would be followed by the abduction of Guyanese who were plying their trade well within the nation’s EEZ.
The President said, “This incursion by Venezuelan armed forces into Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone and its arrest and detention of the crews of Guyanese fishing boats is a flagrant violation of international law and the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Guyana over its maritime spaces.”
The crews and the fishing vessels are still being detained by the Venezuelan military at Port Guiria in Venezuela, despite Guyana’s formal protest to the Venezuelan authorities through diplomatic channels.
As he strongly criticized the Venezuelan authorities for acting in this manner, Ali assured that every effort is being made to ensure the safe return of the fishermen.
He also noted that Guyana is not averse to engaging Venezuela on bilateral matters in which both have a common interest. Ali said these would include dealing with the increasing number of Venezuelans now seeking refuge in Guyana, as well as how both might collaborate, as neighbouring states, in contending with the coronavirus pandemic which has spared neither of the two countries. The President said, however, that such discussions, while welcomed, especially if the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres wishes to play a good offices role, will have to be preceded by a clear demonstration by Venezuela that it will desist from any further acts of aggression against Guyana, starting with the release of the Guyanese fishermen and their vessels.
The Head of State added, “We are a peaceful nation. We always choose the path of peace and the rule of international law to resolve our issues. We will remain firmly on that path, while we pursue justice for our country.”
As for the Chief of Staff, he was keen to note that action has been taken to ramp up communication and other relevant mechanisms with key agencies such as the Maritime Administration as well as international partners to protect the nation’s air and sea space.