The UK’s HMS Trent is visiting Guyana following a contentious referendum in Venezuela, which saw Caracas claim a large amount of its neighbour’s territory.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the mobilisation of his armed forces for military drills. The move, he said, was “in response to the threat and provocation from the United Kingdom against peace and sovereignty of our country”.
The Royal Navy announced the move of HMS Trent to the Caribbean Sea in early December. The patrol ship has been operating in the Mediterranean recently and came to the Caribbean to clamp down on the drug trade, the UK said.
Venezuela held a referendum on December 3, following which it announced its claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region. Caracas has said it will not use military force to seize the territory.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said his country “categorically rejects the arrival” of HMS Trent. This, he said, was “an act of hostile provocation and a violation of the recent Argyle Declaration, assumed as a roadmap to address the territorial dispute over Guyana [Essequibo] between Venezuela and Guyana”.
The two countries agreed to the Argyle Declaration on December 14. The 11-point agreement aims to provide a means for the two sides to hold talks. Guyana is pursuing a legal hearing on Essequibo, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Venezuela objects.
A statement from Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs ministry said the arrival of HMS Trent was “extremely serious”. The UK has collaborated with the US, the statement continued. This is in a “direct threat to peace and stability of the region”.
Venezuela said it reserved all rights to defend its maritime and territorial integrity.
Guyana President Irfaan Ali said Venezuela had nothing to fear from activity in his country’s territory or waters.
“Guyana has long been engaged in partnerships with regional and international states aimed at enhancing internal security. These partnerships pose a threat to no one and are in no way intended to be aggressive or constitute an offensive act against any state,” he said.
UK Under Secretary of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) David Rutley visited Ali on December 18. The two talked about strengthening and expanding the relationship between the UK and Guyana, Ali said.
The president singled out in particular “the areas of sustainable and economic development, and security”.