Guyana defends oil concession in waters claimed by Venezuela

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Guyana's government on Saturday rejected the latest objections raised by neighboring Venezuela over the granting to ExxonMobil Corp. of an oil and gas concession in Caribbean waters claimed by both nations.

Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said in a statement that the project would continue, saying that Guyana has authority over the offshore area in dispute.

Rodriguez-Birkett released the statement a day after an advertisement appeared in Guyana newspapers expressing the unhappiness of Venezuela's government with Exxon starting exploratory drilling in the 26 million-acre tract earlier this month.

The ad said Venezuela "reserves the right to execute all actions in the diplomatic field and in accordance with international law that might be necessary to defend and safeguard the sovereignty and independence of Venezuela."

Rodriguez-Birkett said Guyana rejects such threats.

"The Republic of Guyana has full and unfettered authority to unilaterally explore - with or without partners - and exploit the living and non-living resources within its jurisdiction. Any act or objection to the exercise of such jurisdiction is contrary to international law," her statement said.

In 2013, the Venezuelan navy expelled a seismic vessel working for the U.S. energy company Anadarko in the general area of Exxon's concession and detained its crew for about a week before releasing them.

Rodriguez-Birkett said such actions have undermined United Nations efforts since 1989 to mediate in the dispute. "Venezuela has on many occasions taken actions and issued statements that are inimical to that process even while it was in full operation - this includes both military actions and strident statements by high officials of Venezuela," she said.