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Let us resolve Guyana, Venezuela dispute peacefully – PM

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As a dispute over maritime zones brews between Venezuela and Guyana, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says there must be a resolution to the situation.

“The last thing one wants to see happening is an actual outbreak in physical conflict on this matter…,” Gonsalves told reporters on Wednesday during a press conference.{{more}}

Days after US oil firm ExxonMobil announced what could be the first major oil find in waters off the coast of Guyana, Venezuela issued a decree, gazetted May 27, 2015, which annexed maritime zones which include the ExxonMobil well site.

In response, the Government of Guyana, on June 7, said the decree

is a “flagrant violation of International Law and is inconsistent with the principle that all States should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other States, large and small.”

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela responded the next day, saying it strongly rejects the “disrespectful and false statements” in the Guyana government communique and said the statement “constitutes provocation and threatens the Bolivarian diplomacy of peace.”

“It is unacceptable that the new Government of Guyana assumes

this position regarding a territory that is subject to controversy, since it is also expressly recognized that this maritime area is subject to the amicable settlement of the territorial claims, as set forth in the Geneva Accord,” the Venezuelan communique said.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said he has seen the decree by president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.

“I see a map which is attached to it and I see a lot of individual coordinates. I’ve seen the response from the government of Guyana and the response from the government of Venezuela to the government of Guyana,” Gonsalves stated.

He said he will seek the advice of Commander David Robin, who heads the maritime administration of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I am not an expert on the law of the sea. There is a lot of these technical coordinates. Somebody who is trained in the area will point it out to me and I will get a better public understanding of all the issues,” he said.

He said understanding the issues, does not, however, mean that a solution is imminent, even though one is available.

“It is for us in our hemisphere to address this matter and St Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of Caricom with Guyana. We’re a member of Alba with Venezuela. Guyana is a member of the Petro Caribe arrangements and St Vincent is a member of the Petro Caribe arrangement …

“So, there are several overlapping organizations in which we belong and others which are exclusive to Guyana and Venezuela and my message is to let us resolve this matter peacefully by dialogue within the understanding of international law and the facts on the ground.”

He pointed out several ways in which the matter could be settled, namely bi-lateral negotiation, arbitration, among others.

The Prime Minister said if there is no resolution on the horizon, there has to be a resolution through an international juridical authority.

“…We note, that for quite a while since the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela came into being, there was a lessening of the tension on these border issues and we see that the matter has arisen again,” Gonsalves said.

Guyana has stated that any attempt by Venezuela to enforce its claims would be “vigorously resisted” and brought to the attention of the international community.

Venezuela has also long claimed about two-thirds of Guyana west of the Essequibo river.

Maduro announced it was expanding its “integral maritime zone” farther into the Atlantic Ocean in waters claimed by Guyana, encompassing the area where ExxonMobil reported that it had made the oil discovery.

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