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Guyana, Venezuela to meet to resolve territorial dispute

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The foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela are expected to meet next week in an effort to resolve their latest territorial dispute following the arrest by Venezuelan Navy of a seismic research vessel in Atlantic Ocean waters that both countries claim as theirs. “The Ministers agreed that dialogue was essential in an effort to find a peaceful solution to this matter as well as in preserving the relations which had developed between the two countries in recent years.  In this regard, they agreed to meet in the coming week,” the Foreign Ministry here said in a brief statement.

The date and venue of the meeting have not been announced, but it’s understood that both sides are searching for a neutral third-country ground in which the talks can be held.

The vessel - Teknik Perdana – was conducting seafloor surveys in search of hydrocarbons in an offshore concession granted by Guyana to the United States-based company Anandarko when the Venezuelan Navy intercepted it Thursday afternoon.

The vessel was ordered to shut down its engines and its equipment, and was escorted to Margarita Island.

Caracas announced its position and demanded an official explanation from the Guyanese authorities, shortly after Guyana issued a statement condemning the arrest of the vessel.

In a statement, Venezuela “expresses its deepest concerns over the manner in which foreign vessels authorised by the government of Guyana enter Venezuelan territorial waters and exclusive economic area."

The statement added that "We reiterate that the Bolivarian National Navy would never encroach on the territory of a fraternal nation."

The foreign ministry reaffirmed Venezuela's "peaceful vocation" and said it had no intention of "going back to previous situations of confrontation with the Republic of Guyana".

For its part, the government of Guyana says the Venezuelan navy has entered its territorial waters and detained a US-operated ship.

The Guyanese Foreign Ministry said President Donald Ramotar instructed Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett to contact the Minister of External Relations of Venezuela Elías Jaua to discuss the matter of the arrest of the RV Teknik Perdana by a Venezuelan naval vessel.

Both Guyana and Venezuela have condemned each other’s actions and have requested explanations for their actions in the waters off Essequibo which Venezuela claims as part of its territory.

The Guyanese Foreign Ministry also met with representatives of the opposition to discuss the matter whereupon, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) unequivocally supported the Guyana government in condemning Venezuela's latest act of aggression.

A BBC report said that the Guyana Government has charged that the Venezuelan actions in the disputed Essequibo region constituted "a serious threat to peace in the region".

The ship was contracted by the Texas-based company Anadarkoto look for oil in the area.

Caracas has said the ship was operating illegally in Venezuelan waters.

Teknik Perdana - was surveying the seafloor on Thursday when it was approached by a Venezuelan navy vessel and forced to sail to Venezuela's Margarita Island. At least five US citizens are on board, the company said.

"One point is clear: the Teknik Perdana was in Guyana's waters when this incident took place," said the Guyanan foreign ministry in a statement.

The ship sails under a Panamanian flag and is owned by Singaporean marine surveying company.

The vast area west of the Essequibo river makes up two-thirds of the territory of Guyana.

It has been claimed by Venezuela as its own since the 19th century, when Guyana was still a British colony.

The late Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, made attempts to improve relations between the two South American neighbours.

In an official visit to Georgetown in 2004, he played down the dispute and said that "the integration of South America and the Caribbean is vital, especially now that neo-liberalism has failed".