British warship in Guyana waters, fanning tensions with Venezuela

A British warship arrived off the coast of Guyana on Friday, further fueling tensions over a territorial dispute with Venezuela, which has launched a major military exercise in response to what it termed an "unacceptable" threat.

Venezuela and Guyana have been locked in a land dispute over the oil-rich Essequibo region which makes up about two-thirds of Guyana's territory, but has long been claimed by Caracas.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday ordered over 5,600 troops to join a "defensive" exercise near the Guyana border, in response to Britain sending a warship to the area in a show of support to its former colony.

Britain said Friday the Venezuelan military exercises were "unjustified and should cease."

London diverted the patrol vessel HMS Trent to Guyana "as part of a series of engagements in the region during her Atlantic patrol task deployment."

A Guyana foreign ministry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the "uneventful" arrival of the warship in its waters on Friday.

Brazil, which borders both countries and whose President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has emerged as a peace broker of sorts, on Friday called for "restraint and a return to dialogue."

Expressing "concern," the Brazilian government said in a statement it "believes military demonstrations of support to either party should be avoided."

 'Recklessness' 

Rocio San Miguel, a Venezuelan military expert and normally a critic of the government, said Britain's military response was "recklessness that forces Venezuela to respond as it has done."

However Gary Best, a former chief of staff of the Guyanan Defence Forces, said having the British ship in their waters was not "a provocation."...

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