SAN JUAN – The Guyana government denounced on Monday as “illegal” Venezuela’s claim of sovereignty over coastal waters where a subsidiary of U.S.-based ExxonMobil has found a significant oil deposit.
In a statement, the Guyanese foreign ministry said it plans to bring “this aggressive and illegal act by Venezuela” to the attention of the international community.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued on May 27 a decree unilaterally extending his country’s sovereignty to waters off the coast of the Essequibo region, the object of a long-running territorial dispute between Georgetown and Caracas.
Prior to the decree, Venezuela had twice written to Exxon unit Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd. warning against continued exploration for hydrocarbons in the area.
The warnings from Caracas provoked strong objections from Guyana.
Maduro’s recent 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 Guyanese government said Monday
“Guyana will continue, undeterred, to access and develop its resources in accordance with the constitution and laws in keeping with the principles of international law,” the foreign ministry said.
An Exxon platform began exploratory drilling at the Stabroek Block off Guyana in early March under a $200 million, 10-year agreement between the oil supermajor and Georgetown.
The Stabroek Block sits off the coast of Essequibo, a 160,000-sq.-kilometer (61,780-sq.-mile) area that is administered by Guyana and makes up more than half of its territory but which Venezuela has claimed as its own since the 19th century.