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International community concerned about growing crisis between Venezuela and Guyana

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Venezuela National Assembly President Jorge Rodriguez shows a map of Venezuela with the territory of Essequibo included during a session at the National Assembly in Caracas.

Agence France-Presse

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UN Security Council meeting, call for calm from South American countries; the international community is concerned about the growing tension between Venezuela and Guyana over the Essequibo, an oil-rich territory in dispute between the two countries.

On the ground, the United States announced that it was carrying out air military exercises described as provocation by Venezuela.

Tension around this 160,000 square km area under Guyanese administration and claimed for decades by Venezuela has continued to rise since the discovery of significant reserves oil by the American company ExxonMobil in 2015 and calls for tenders from Guyana for exploitation in the area.

At the request of Guyana, the UN Security Council will examine the subject on Friday behind closed doors.

Members of Mercosur (Brazil , Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) as well as Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, urged in a joint statement Thursday evening the two parties to dialogue and the search for a peaceful solution [. ..] in order to avoid unilateral initiatives which could worsen the situation.

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Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had earlier said he did not want war in South America.

The British Foreign Minister, David Cameron, called on Caracas to cease its actions, seeing no argument that could justify unilateral action.

The United States announced Thursday that it was carrying out routine air military exercises in Guyana, a small country destined to become an Eldorado of black gold with the largest reserves per capita of the planet.

I would be careful not to establish too close a link between routine military operations in the region and this particular issue of the crisis between the two countries, said the spokesperson for the American National Security Council, John Kirby, on Thursday. . We recognize the sovereign territory of Guyana and, as we do with many nations, we will conduct operations and exercises as necessary, he said.

He refused to comment on a possible American military intervention.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed his unwavering support for Guyana's sovereignty.

For Venezuela, these military exercises are an unfortunate provocation by the United States in favor of the praetorians of ExxonMobil, the main oil operator in Guyana. They will not make us turn away from our future actions for the recovery of the Essequibo, insisted Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

Adding to the tension, five of the seven military passengers on a Guyanese helicopter missing since Wednesday died in a crash about fifty kilometers from the Venezuelan border, announced the army, which announced of two survivors.

The army, which the day before had indicated that it had no information suggesting a Venezuelan intervention, opened an investigation. However, she clarified that the weather conditions were bad.

The referendum on Essequibo organized on Sunday in Venezuela was an accelerator of tension. According to official figures – disputed by many observers – some 10.4 million Venezuelan voters participated in the consultation and 95% of them said they were in favor of the integration of the country. x27;Essequibo in the country.

President Irfaan Ali reacted by speaking of a direct threat to territorial integrity, sovereignty and the political independence of Guyana. He stressed that his army was on full alert and accused Venezuela of being an outlaw nation and a significant risk to peace and security.

Caracas in return accused Guyanese President Irfaan Ali of having irresponsibly given the green light to the installation of military bases Americans in Essequibo.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro advocated the creation of a special military zone near the border and ordered state giant PDVSA to grant oil exploitation licenses in the country. Essequibo. He also proposed banning Venezuela from oil companies operating in the Essequibo with concessions granted by Guyana.

Both countries, however, renewed contact on Wednesday between their foreign ministers and agreed to keep communication channels open, according to a Venezuelan press release.

Despite everything, the exchanges continue to be bitter. On Thursday, Guyanese Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo said his country did not trust Mr. Maduro, who he said was at the head of an unpredictable government. He also dismissed Maduro's ultimatum to companies operating in Guyana: They must not heed Maduro or his ultimatum. They operate legally, completely legally.

Some 125,000 people, or a fifth of the country's population, live in the region which makes up two-thirds of Guyana's land area. p>

Venezuela maintains that the Essequibo River should be the natural border, as in 1777 during the time of the Spanish Empire. Guyana, for its part, argues that the border dates from the English colonial era and was ratified in 1899 by an arbitration court created ex nihilo for the case, in Paris.

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