Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne.

This country has brokered an agreement for the foreign affairs ministers of Venezuela and Guyana to meet and swiftly resolve a dispute over the recent detention of two Guyanese fishing vessels and their crews.

T&T stepped in on Caricom’s behalf yesterday when Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Amery Browne held frank discussions with Venezuelan Ambassador the this country, Carlos Pérez Silva, on the incident, the latest display of heightening border tensions between Venezuela and Guyana.

Guyana recently deployed troops to safeguard against possible Venezuelan infringement of its borders. At issue are oil-rich maritime areas near where ExxonMobil made major oil finds in recent years.

Two Guyanese registered fishing vessels—the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf—were recently intercepted by a Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24. The captains of the two fishing vessels were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria where they have been detained.

Guyana claimed the boats were in operating off the coast of Waini Point within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, something Venezuela denied yesterday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd has issued a protest note condemning the detention of the captains and crews of fishing vessels and is calling for their immediate release.

Venezuela’s foreign ministry reportedly said the incident occurred in their waters and accused Guyana of “conspiring” with ExxonMobil and other international oil companies to control Venezuelan territory.

T&T Foreign Affairs Minister invited Pérez Silva to meet given T&T’s chairmanship of Caricom. According to a statement from the ministry, Browne expressed deep concern on the matter and urged an immediate and peaceful resolution. The Venezuelan ambassador gave an undertaking that his Minister of Foreign Affairs will meet virtually with his Guyanese counterpart as soon as possible in an attempt to swiftly resolve the issue.

T&T has backed Guyana in the issue of Venezuelan’s borders dispute with Guyana. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro recently declared that he would reconquer the disputed Essequibo region which is at the centre of a decades-old dispute between the two countries. That matter will be dealt with by the International Court of Justice.

This country its own issues with Venezuela in the last year. To date there hass been no word from Venezuela about granting a follow-up visit to the oil tanker Nabarima in the Gulf of Paria with 1.3 million barrels of crude of board.

T&T asked for an inspection visit of the vessel last year after concerns were raised that it was in danger of sinking. Venezuela granted a T&T crew of experts a visit in November but the team recommended a follow-up inspection visit. There was no word up to yesterday on whether a follow up visit will be allowed.