Guyana and Exxon in talks after dispute halts marine survey

CARACAS: Guyana’s government is “in discussion” with Exxon Mobil after two ships searching for oil off the South American country’s coast halted work following a weekend confrontation with Venezuela’s navy, Guyana’s foreign minister said.
Both neighbouring South American countries said the Saturday incident had occurred within their territorial waters. A century-long border dispute has heated up in recent years as Irving, Texas-based Exxon has discovered more than 5 billion barrels of oil and gas off Guyana’s shores.
Guyana Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge said he could not “for the moment” say whether the two ships owned by Norway’s Petroleum Geo-Services and hired by Exxon would resume their seismic survey, or if they would return to the area where the incident occurred, citing the ongoing talks with Exxon.
When asked if Guyanese authorities would provide the vessels with protection if they continue exploration, he said Guyana is “committed to resolving territorial disputes by peaceful means.”
“We will therefore first try to explore and exhaust Diplomatic channels,” Greenidge said. “Guyana is a small state of less than a million persons compared with Venezuela’s population of 30 million.”
Earlier on Monday, Exxon declined to say when the survey would restart, referring questions to PGS. Bard Stenberg, a PGS senior vice-president, declined to comment on any resumption of the work or if the company has sought to have Guyana provide protection for its vessels.
There were two PGS ships involved in the confrontation, the Ramform Tethys and Delta Monarch, Stenberg said on Monday. — Reuters