Maritime boundary dispute between Venezuela and Guyana remains unresolved
(5 August 2014)
Tensions between Venezuela and Guyana over their maritime boundary continue, despite 2013 promises to resolve the issue. Possible new oil exploration by the Guyanese government and attention to the dispute by regional leaders may reactivate attempts at resolution.
The border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana has its roots in Venezuela’s claim to two thirds of the land territory of then-British Guyana in the late 1800s, a claim that was adjudicated by international tribunal in 1899 in favor of the British. In 1966 after Guyanese independence, both parties agreed to the Treaty of Geneva, which established a framework for resolution of the border dispute. However, recent events such as the Venezuelan seizure of the Teknik Perdana seismic survey vessel operating in Guyanese-claimed territorial waters in October 2013 have raised tensions once again, and have prompted Guyana to push for resolution to the sea boundary as well as the land boundary.
After the 2013 Teknik Perdana incident, Venezuelan and Guyanese foreign ministers agreed to address their dispute over territorial waters. However, at a July 2014 annual summit of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) organization, regional leaders expressed concern “over the lack of progress towards the consideration of options, within the context of international law in delimiting the maritime boundary.” They encouraged Venezuela to make “definitive” progress towards resolving the dispute with Guyana, noting that the dispute hampered economic development in the region.
Venezuelan naval surveillance of the disputed area has slowed oil exploration activities in the region, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Robert Persaud claimed, noting that, " it has created some level of setback in those particular areas where we have seen the intrusion by the Venezuelan Naval representatives.” The government of Guyana is currently negotiating with oil company Esso to drill a well in the disputed area, according to the Guyanese Commissioner of the Geology and Mines Commission Rickford Vieira.
Guyana to drill oil well on the Essequibo shore, 16 July 2014, El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140716/guyana-to-drill-oil-well-on-the-essequibo-shore
Venezuela/Guyana border tango, 15 July 2014, R. Singh for Trinidad Express Newspapers, http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/VenezuelaGuyana-border-tango-267264391.html