By Neil Marks
BRIDGETOWN, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Guyana's government said onFriday the navy of neighboring Venezuela had evicted a ship usedby a U.S. oil exploration company from Guyanese waters, callingthe move unprecedented and a serious threat to security.
Guyana's foreign ministry said a Venezuelan naval vessel onThursday ordered the RV Teknik Perdana to change course and stopsurveying. The ministry said the ship, which was being used byTexas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp, was then escortedto the Venezuelan island of Margarita.
Officials at Venezuela's defense ministry were notimmediately available to comment. A border dispute between thetwo countries began more than a century ago, and oil explorationin recent years has only fan the flames.
"The actions taken by the Venezuelan navy vessel constitutea serious threat to the peace of this sub-region," Guyana'sforeign ministry said in a statement after Thursday's incident.
After a disagreement about whose territory the RV TeknikPerdana was working in, Guyana's foreign ministry said its crewwas told to change course and switch off its surveying gear.
"It was then clear the vessel and its crew were not onlybeing escorted out of Guyana's waters, but were under arrest.These actions by the Venezuelan naval vessel are unprecedentedin Guyana-Venezuela relations," the statement said.
Guyana said it had demanded the immediate release of thevessel, and that it was looking for a diplomatic resolution.
Asked about the case, Venezuela's Petroleum Minister RafaelRamirez told reporters in Caracas the Venezuelan government waschecking the reports.
Guyana awarded Anadarko Petroleum Corp a deep waterexploration license in June last year for a block named Roraima,although details of the concession have not been revealed.
Oil companies have been increasingly interested in thenortheastern shoulder of South America since a discovery offnearby French Guyana in 2011 that industry experts described asa game-changer for the region's energy prospects.
Venezuela and Guyana have long argued about the status ofthe disputed Essequibo region, an area on the border about thesize of the U.S. state of Georgia, and over rights to the oceanresources that lie offshore. Venezuela calls it a "reclamationzone," but in practice it functions as Guyanese territory.
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