US to conduct Guyana flights as tensions mount over Venezuela dispute

US announces flight drills, stresses ‘unwavering support’ for Guyana’s sovereignty amid growing border tensions.

The Essequibo River in Guyana
The Essequibo River in Guyana, on November 19 [Juan Pablo Arraez/AP Photo]

The United States has said it will conduct joint flight drills with Guyana amid growing border tensions between Guyana and Venezuela.

The long-running dispute over the oil-rich Essequibo region, which is being heard by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), escalated over the weekend when voters in Venezuela rejected the ICJ’s jurisdiction and backed the creation of a new Venezuelan state.

The US embassy in Georgetown said in a statement on Thursday that US Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Central and South America, would “conduct flight operations with the Guyanese military” on Thursday.

The statement said the drills were part of “routine engagement and operations to enhance [the] security partnership between the United States and Guyana” but has been widely interpreted as an effort to deter military intervention by Venezuela.

Caracas rejected the US announcement of flights as a “provocation”.

Later on Thursday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Washington supported a peaceful resolution to the border dispute.

“We absolutely stand by our unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty,” he told reporters.


Following the vote, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has authorised oil exploration in Essequibo, in a move that drew the ire of Guyana President Irfaan Ali.

“We have initiated a number of precautionary measures to ensure the peace and stability of this region,” Ali said.

“Should Venezuela proceed to act in this reckless and adventurous manner, the region will have to respond,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

There are growing concerns across South America that the tensions could spiral into a military confrontation.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that multilateral groups must help find a peaceful solution to the dispute.

“We do not want and we do not need war in South America,” Lula said on Thursday.

The news outlet Reuters reported that Brazil’s army intelligence has detected a build-up in Venezuelan forces near the border with Guyana, citing an unnamed senior military official.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies