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Venezuela restates rights after confronting two oil exploration ships

By Renzo Pipoli
Venezuela on Tuesday afternoon restated its rights over its territorial waters and rejected what it called interference from the United States. Photo by David Fernandez/EPA
Venezuela on Tuesday afternoon restated its rights over its territorial waters and rejected what it called interference from the United States. Photo by David Fernandez/EPA

Dec. 26 (UPI) -- The Venezuelan government said it rejected an "impertinent" and interventionist comment by the United States State Deparment over its Sunday interception of two exploration ships in its sovereign waters.

The two oil explorations ships were "within the projection of the delta of the Orinoco of Venezuela, so they could have never been located in the Economic Exclusive Zone of Guyana," a statement from the Venezuelan foreign ministry issued Tuesday afternoon said.

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Guyana had earlier said it was only one ship, intercepted on Saturday.

"The ships left Venezuelan waters after an exchange of communications with the National Bolivarian Navy, which was carried out strictly following international laws and the Bolivarian Peace Diplomacy," the Venezuelan government added.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said "it is evident that the U.S. government interferes at its convenience in a matter that is absolutely outside of its incumbency so as to promote corporate interests carnally linked with the Washington governing elite."

State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino tweeted Monday that Venezuela should "respect international law and the sovereignty of its neighbors". Guyana has the "sovereign right to explore and exploit resources in its territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone," it added.

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The Guyana government said on Saturday the Ramford Thethys was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy at 10:30 a.m.

"It was intercepted in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana," it said. "The Government of Guyana rejects this illegal, aggressive and hostile act."

Exxon Mobil "paused" its seismic data recording and other exploration efforts in the Stabroek Block offshore on Guyana, the Houston Chronicle reported on Monday. A single ship in the area fled the region after being intercepted by Venezuelan navy, it added.

Maria Corina Machado, one of the leading opposition figures who's very critical of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, on Monday tweeted the two ships were in Venezuelan waters in an "unacceptable violation" and saluted the navy efforts to protect the country's waters.

It is not the first time the Venezuelan navy has intercepted oil exploration ships. One such incident occurred in October 2013, also involving a ship working for a U.S. oil company. At the time, a ship working for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. was detained by Venezuela.

Venezuela has long disputed rights to areas also claimed by Guyana with diplomatic efforts that go back decades.

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