President Nicolas Maduro last week recalled Venezuela’s ambassador in neighboring Guyana for consultation amid mounting tensions over their disputed border.
During an address to parliament, Maduro said that he is also initiating a comprehensive review of relations with much smaller Guyana and reducing the size of Venezuela’s embassy in the South American country.
“Venezuela is coming under new forms of assault and aggression,” he said, adding “that we must combat with national unity.”
A potentially-rich oil discovery in waters off the northern coast of South America has rekindled the border dispute that stretches back to the l9th century.
Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, has long claimed a significant chunk of Guyana, including a large marine area where ExxonMobil Corp, recently announced it made a significant oil discovery.
Venezuela issued a decree soon after that announcement extending its territorial claims further out into the Atlantic to encompass the area where the discovery was made.
Guyana denounced the decree as a threat to regional peace and said it would formally ask the United Nations to intervene. UN secretary-general Bank Ki-moon has offered to mediate.
Maduro said Guyana President David Granger had rebuffed Venezuela’s sincere efforts to open diplomatic talks. But he ruled out the possibility of war with Guyana and any armed conflict over the dispute which is widely seen as extremely unlikely.