It has come to the attention of the Government of Guyana through a media report in the Venezuelan publication El Nacional of 15th March 2017 that a resolution of the Energy and Petroleum Commission of the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela entitled ‘Approved Agreement to Reject Oil Operations in the Essequibo’ has called for the immediate cessation of on-going offshore oil exploration and exploitation activities under Guyanese license in the Stabroek concession block well within the maritime Exclusive Economic Zone of Guyana in accordance with international law. So far as the Government of Guyana is aware, the Government of Venezuela has not adopted or otherwise endorsed the resolution, in which case the Government of Guyana would respond as appropriate.
The inflammatory resolution contains serious factual and legal errors. First, it suggests erroneously that the offshore activities in Guyanese waters have “recently” commenced whereas the Stabroek license was awarded in 1999 and exploration commenced the following year in 2000, 17 years ago. Second, it suggests erroneously that Guyana is prohibited from developing its resources in this area because of Article V of the Geneva Agreement of 1966. But nothing whatsoever in the terms of that provision indicates that the parties cannot exercise jurisdiction over their sovereign territories. Otherwise, it would mean that for the past fifty years, Guyana had no right to develop 70% of its territory, and the same applies to Venezuela’s development of the Orinoco region and adjacent maritime area which, like the Essequibo, was the subject of the 1899 Arbitral Award. Needless to say, such an argument is manifestly absurd.
This political posturing comes at an unfortunate time when the UN Secretary-General has appointed Ambassador Dag Nylander as his Personal Representative to provide Guyana and Venezuela a final opportunity to resort to the Good Offices process in order to resolve the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award delimiting the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela is “null and void”. The parties have until the end of 2017 to make significant progress in arriving at a final resolution of the controversy failing which the Secretary-General will refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. Guyana is fully committed to the search for a full and final resolution of the controversy under the Good Offices process in the limited time that remains. Such deliberate provocations and absurd demands that Guyana halt all development activities, especially when for over fifty years Venezuela has intimidated Guyana and obstructed a resolution of the controversy in accordance with international law, only serve to undermine this final opportunity for the parties to once and for all bring an end to this matter by agreement, failing which adjudication will be the only remaining means of settlement.
Guyana remains committed to friendly and neighbourly relations with the Government and people of Venezuela, but it will categorically refuse to surrender any of the sovereign rights to which it is entitled under international law, not least in this, the fifty-first anniversary of its independence from colonial rule, as a new period of prosperity awaits its people.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
March 17, 2017