NICOLAS MADURO criticised Guyanese President David Granger’s “aggressive provocation” over a Venezuelan dispute in Guyana with oil giant ExxonMobil on Tuesday.
Speaking after a meeting with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, the Venezuelan president said that Mr Granger would “have to rectify a situation that harms his own people.”
But Mr Maduro put the majority of the blame on ExxonMobil, which announced a major oil find in May in disputed waters off Guyana’s Caribbean coast.
ExxonMobil has come into conflict before with Venezuela’s socialist government over legislation requiring foreign oil firms to become junior partners with the government.
Mr Granger’s APNU-Alliance for Change party narrowly beat the left-wing People’s Progressive Party in May’s general election amid accusations of vote-rigging.
Mr Maduro pointed out that leaders of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) recently called a summit of the 12-strong Union of South American Nations (Unasur), but said: “I am informed unofficially that President Granger refuses to attend the summit.”
During the meeting with Mr Ban, the Venezuelan president reiterated his country’s historical claim to the sparsely-populated Esequibo region of Guyana, which comprises the western two-thirds of the country.
Earlier this week Mr Maduro said: “The Esequibo has always been Venezuelan. We are reclaiming what is fair and what belongs to us — what was taken from us by the British empire.”
Mr Ban pledged to send a commission to the neighbouring South American countries to arrange a meeting in line with the 1966 Geneva agreement between Venezuela and Britain, three months before Guyana won independence.
That agreement provided for meetings between two delegates from each side to resolve the territorial dispute.
Britain first took control of the Dutch colony in Guyana during the Napoleonic wars, but following independence from Spain, liberation leader Simon Bolivar claimed the Esequibo for the then-nation of Great Colombia.
The region was signed over to Britain in 1899 by a US court, with Venezuela represented by a US lawyer.
Mr Granger has said that his country would seek to resolve the border issue in international courts. Both presidents have affirmed that the conflict will be settled without violence.