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Venezuelan Foreign Minister to hold talks in T&T over detained T&T and Guyanese vessels

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Venezuelan Foreign Minister Eliam Jauae is  expected to be in  Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) today for talks with his Guyanese counterpart regarding an  incident in which a 285-foot, US-chartered oil exploration ship hired by Guyana and flying under a Panamanian flag, was intercepted by the Venezuelan Navy and sailed to Margarita Island last Thursday. The ship’s captain has been charged and released, pending trial.

Guyana’s Government said the crew was well within Guyana’s territorial waters but Venezuelan officials said the ship crossed its maritime boundary. The two ministers are expected to discuss last Thursday’s incident.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister is also expected to hold talks with his Trinidadian counterpart regarding the seizure of a  T&T fishing vessell. The captain and crew of the T&T boat detained Monday evening by the Venezuelan Coast Guard have been released. 

A statement from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) identified the boat as Capital of Paradise I, owned by the Fish Processing Company of Tobago Ltd, a company of the THA. It said the captain and crew were detained “for more than 24 hours” but were released on Tuesday night “through diplomatic efforts.”

Up to yesterday morning, however, T&T’s ambassador in Caracas, Anthony David Edgehill, told the T&T Guardian he had “no official word” on the incident. In a phone call from Caracas yesterday morning, Edgehill said details of the incident were not available to him and he was therefore unable to give any official update. He said while there have been unofficial reports that the boat was released, he was still awaiting a response to a diplomatic note sent to the Venezuelan authorities yesterday. 

According to the THA statement, the vessel was being escorted by two Venezuelan Coast Guard vessels toward the port of Guiría in Sucre state, north-east Venezuela, on Tuesday night, when they were told that they were no longer under detention. Venezuelan authorities had said the detained vessel was intercepted in their exclusive economic zone but T&T authorities yesterday said the boat was in T&T’s exclusive economic zone when it was intercepted.

“While the captain was being questioned by the Venezuelans he requested the company’s office to confirm the vessel’s position through a back up tracking system, known as Skymate,” the THA statement said. A statement released late last evening by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “The co-ordinates of the vessel at the time of detention located the Capital of Paradise 1 north of the maritime boundary that separates the maritime jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The release said the boat was on its way back to T&T.