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Venezuela to ask UN to mediate Guyana border dispute

July 10, 2015

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela said Friday it would ask the United Nations to help resolve a border dispute with Guyana over an area where a new oil discovery has been made.

The country will send a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requesting that a formal mediator be appointed, according to Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez.

Venezuela long has claimed a significant chunk of Guyana, including an offshore area where the Exxon Mobil Corp. recently announced it made a significant oil discovery. Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, issued a decree soon after that announcement extending its territorial claims farther out into the Atlantic to encompass the area where the discovery was made.

Earlier this week, Maduro announced he was recalling Venezuela’s ambassador for consultation amid the mounting tensions.

The Guyanese finance minister said Thursday that Venezuela has decided to stop buying much of Guyana’s rice crop amid the conflict. Venezuela has in the past four years purchased about 40 percent of Guyana’s rice production, or about 200,000 tons, paying for it with oil that amounts to about half of Guyana’s daily supply needs.

Peter DeGroot, president of Guyana’s Rice Millers Association, characterized the shift as a “significant blow.”

President David Granger told Parliament on Thursday that Guyana does not have the military capacity to challenge Venezuela and his government would seek an international judicial settlement over the border issue. Maduro responded later that night that he was encouraged by Granger’s remarks.

On Monday, Maduro affirmed that the conflict would be settled without violence.

The dispute between the two South American countries stems from an 1899 court ruling that required Venezuela to relinquish an undeveloped but resource-rich jungle territory called the Essequibo that constitutes about two-thirds of Guyanese territory.

Venezuela contends the ruling was invalid, and many official maps still describe the Essequibo as Venezuelan territory. Guyana says Venezuela pledged to abide by the ruling, but later reneged.

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