Guyana yesterday made oral presentations before the United Nations (UN)
in support of its application to extend the country’s continental shelf by a further 150 nautical miles.
The presentation forms part of the requirements for the consideration of the submissions for an extended continental shelf by State Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Guyana, through Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, made its submission for an extended continental shelf to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on September 6, 2011.
The application would not have come without objections from neighbouring Venezuela who says that its age-old claims on a large part of Essequibo, disqualify Guyana from making the application. Venezuela is also questioning the authority of a section of the United Nations to handle the matter.
Guyana, on the other hand, has insisted that the Essequibo claim was settled since 1899.
The extension of the continental shelf will allow Guyana to widen its search for oil and even expand its fishing grounds.
Minister Rodrigues-Birkett was accompanied by Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; George Talbot, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations; Keith George, Ambassador of Guyana to the Republic of Suriname; Ambassador Rudolph Collins, Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Newell Dennison, Manager, Petroleum Division of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and Dr Barton Scotland, Adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr Snejana Zaric and Dr Norbert Ott, Scientific Advisers of the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources also formed part of Guyana’s delegation.
Last month, the Guyana Government insisted that a claim by neighbouring Venezuela over a substantial part of Essequibo has long been settled.
This stance was days after the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry restated its claims to western Essequibo while questioning the authority of a section of the United Nations to handle the matter.
According to the Venezuelan government, it is rejecting the fact that the UN’s Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) is even considering Guyana’s request.
This is because the UN’s Good Officer of the Secretary General is already looking into a number of issues between the two countries.
However, the Guyana Government made it clear that Guyana’s submission to the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), pursuant to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention), was done in a manner fully consistent with the provisions of international law, including the Convention.
The Foreign Ministry said the move by Venezuela to object to Guyana’s application for the extension was deeply regrettable.
“The submission itself was made without prejudice to maritime delimitation with other states in accordance with the provisions of Article 76 (10) of the Convention. The decision of the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to object to Guyana’s Submission to the CLCS is therefore deeply regrettable.”
Regarding the issue of western Essequibo, to which Venezuela continues to lay claim, the Foreign Ministry made it clear that the boundary with that neighbouring country was definitively settled by the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899.
Guyana has also informed the CLCS, in its submission, that “there are no disputes in the region relevant to this submission of data and information relating to the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
That statement remains legally and factually correct, the Ministry stressed in its response to statements of Venezuela last month.
Following the announcement by Guyana last September that it has applied to the UN to extend its continental shelf, and amidst tensions in Venezuela, the two governments had met in neutral Trinidad and Tobago to agree on the way forward.
Rodrigues-Birkett and her Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro had signed the Trinidad and Tobago agreement in September.
Since the announcement of Guyana’s intention to extend its continental shelf, there have been several statements from groups in Venezuela which felt that an age-old claim by that country on a large portion of Essequibo may be under threat.
The issue even had Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez warning that he will not allow “some sectors there (Guyana) or here (Venezuela) to create internal conflicts. We will not let that happen.”
One fringe group reportedly started its protests to whip up Venezuela’s sentiments by distributing maps of Venezuela showing Essequibo as part of that country’s territory.
The rumblings have been serious enough to persuade the two countries to meet.