Venezuela, Guyana to talk about dispute flare-ups

17 октября 2013, 12:51
Top diplomats from Venezuela and Guyana were set to meet Thursday on South America's biggest remaining territorial dispute, after Caracas seized two ships accused of violating its exclusive economic zone, AFP reports.

Caracas claims about two thirds of Guyana's national territory -- and related offshore rights.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and Guyana's Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett will meet in Port-of-Spain on the latest diplomatic incident.

Last week, Venezuela detained a Malaysian-owned oil scouting ship hired by Guyana and operated by US-based Anadarko, along with its crew.

Guyana hired Anadarko Petroleum to search for offshore oil, in a highly sensitive and potentially explosive move.

Caracas claims about two thirds of Guyana's national territory -- and related offshore rights.

The Essequibo River basin dispute is the biggest fight over territorial and sea rights in South America -- far larger in scope than the Falklands issue or landlocked Bolivia's quest for a Pacific outlet.

Late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez frequently spoke of the oil- and mineral-rich Essequibo territory as vital to Venezuela as a nation.

But his military was not involved in the types of frequent enforcement operations ordered by his successor President Nicolas Maduro.

On Tuesday, Venezuela seized a second ship in as many weeks accused of violating its exclusive economic zone -- this time a fishing boat from Trinidad.

Several experts consulted said the Guyana-hired oil boat was not even in the disputed economic zone waters but rather inside already agreed Venezuelan territorial waters, and that Caracas's moves seemed ideologically inspired.

Guyana issued a diplomatic note over its discontent.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian ship owners had said Venezuela has released a US-operated oil exploration ship and all 36 crew members, including Americans, five days after it was detained in disputed waters off its coast.

Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum had been conducting a seabed survey on behalf of Guyana, a former British colony with just 750,000 people, many descended from Indian laborers.

The Malaysian-owned vessel was boarded on Thursday by the Venezuelan navy and sailed to Margarita Island, the company said.

Venezuela has claimed the disputed territory since 1897.

And students in Venezuela are shown national maps with the territory included with stripes through it -- a pending issue of huge national and economic importance.

In late August, Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, Donald Ramotar, said that they were moving to resolve the dispute and would continue to seek help from United Nations mediators to solve it.

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