Exxon research vessel– says Guyana will not be intimidated; urges Venezuela to come to tableBy Jarryl BryanThe Government of Guyana, in conjunction with the parliamentary Opposition, has called on Venezuela to cease its intimidation tactics and respect Guyana’s territory; even as further details emerged about the December 22, 2018 incident involving the Venezuelan navy and an ExxonMobil’s research ship in Guyana’s waters.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl GreenidgeDuring Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge revealed that on the day the Ramform Tethys was forced to abandon its seismic research work, the Venezuelan navy had tried to land a helicopter on the deck on the Norwegian ship.“A reckless attempt was made by the Venezuelans to land a helicopter on the deck of… the Ramform Tethys. That vessel was flagged by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and had a total of 70 crew members on board including the Captain,” Greenidge revealed.“It (the ship) was intercepted in the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at an approximate distance of 140 kilometres from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela and some 250 kilometres from Punta Playa, the westernmost point on the land border of Guyana.”The Minister called on Venezuela to withdraw its decree against Guyana’s rights to explore its territory; a call he noted is fully supported by the Opposition. He also urged the Spanish speaking country to cease these types of military actions and join Guyana in submitting its territorial case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).The Ramform TethysGreenidge stressed that Guyana will not be intimidated by Venezuela’s bombastic display. The Minister made it clear that Guyana has no interest in the Orinoco Delta and it is therefore misleading to claim that the Ramform Tethys was in that area.“On December 23, the Government of Venezuela issued a communique asserting that the incident took place in the same area identified by Guyana but alleging that the position was ‘within the Orinoco River Delta maritime waters over which Venezuela has unquestionable sovereignty. In other words, the coordinates put out by Venezuela and Guyana was practically identical.”“May I stress therefore that Guyana is aware of no incident occurring in the Orinoco Delta or its projection, much less an incident involving vessels having permission from the Guyana authorities to undertake seismic surveys there… Guyana has no interest in the Orinoco River and we had never imagined that the Orinoco Delta could naturally project across the entire coastal front of Guyana,” the Foreign Affairs Minister added.That being said, he also noted that Guyana remained open to dialogue with Venezuela; dialogue that does not infringe on the case currently before the ICJ. Thus far, Venezuela has refused to participate in the ICJ process.“We have reiterated our invitation to Venezuela to join Guyana in seeking a peaceful, just and final resolution of the controversy by participating in the proceedings before the International Court of Justice, presenting all of its claims and defences to the Court, and accepting the final judgement of the Court, in compliance with Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement and the binding decision of the Secretary General,” Greenidge stated.On December 22, 2018, ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary announced it was suspending the 3D seismic tests it started only a month ago in Guyana’s Stabroek Block; after the appearance and approach of the Venezuelan navy caused the company’s seismic vessel to pack up shop and vacate the area.Ramform Tethys, the vessel in question, is owned by Norwegian company Petroleum and Geo Services (PGS). The company was contracted by Exxon to carry out tests and acquire seismic data.The incident came at a time when Guyana has an ongoing territorial integrity case with Venezuela. Since Guyana submitted its memorial on jurisdiction to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year, a date was in turn set for the Venezuelan Government to submit its own counter memorial.This was revealed during the 2019 Budget debates by Greenidge. According to the Minister, April 18, 2019, has been set for Venezuela to submit its counter memorial.When US oil giant ExxonMobil announced the first of multiple oil finds in local waters in 2015, Venezuela renewed its claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Venezuela has been against oil exploration in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, where multiple oil deposits were found by ExxonMobil, and has since renewed claims to the Essequibo region.On January 30, 2018, Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres concluded that the Good Offices Process – which the parties had engaged in for almost 30 years, but it failed to achieve a solution to the controversy – and chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement, for which Guyana has long been advocating. Sir Shridath Ramphal and Ambassador Audrey Waddell are assisting Minister Greenidge.