Venezuela Protests Guyana's Auction of Offshore Oil Blocks


Venezuela's government on Tuesday criticized Guyana's offshore oil bidding round and said companies seeking up to eight blocks will not have rights to explore the maritime areas, which would be subject to international claims.

Guyana and Venezuela have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over their borders. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in April ruled it had jurisdiction over the issue, which could determine which country has rights to territory rich in oil and gas, especially offshore.

Guyana last week received bids from companies including Exxon Mobil and TotalEnergies to allocate eight new offshore oil blocks, a move to diversify the portfolio of energy firms participating in its nascent industry, currently dominated by an Exxon-led consortium.

"Venezuela strongly rejects the illegal licensing round being carried out in Guyana as it intends to use maritime areas that are subject of delimitation between both countries," Venezuela said in a statement, posted on social media. 

Venezuela argues that Guyana does not have sovereign rights over the areas, so any oil activity there must be done in agreement with Venezuela.

"These actions will not generate any type of rights to third parties participating in the process," Venezuela added, referring to the auction. 

Guyana's President Irfaan Ali said last week in Washington the territorial dispute should be resolved through the ICJ. "We are very clear... We've allowed this matter to go to the ICJ and we have continuously encouraged Venezuela to participate fully in the process and for both parties to respect the outcome of the process."

The confrontation in 2018 prompted Venezuela's navy to intercept a drilling ship hired by Exxon to explore near the maritime border. 

But the company, along with partners Hess Corp and China's CNOOC, has discovered more than 11 billion barrels of oil and gas and continues to explore and produce oil in Guyana.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Marianna Parraga; Editing by Sharon Singleton)

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