Venezuelans to vote in referendum on territory -minister

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Yvan Gil Pinto addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 23, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters) - Venezuela's National Assembly has green-lighted a referendum regarding a territorial dispute with Guyana, Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said on Saturday in an address to the United Nations.

Venezuela this week rejected Guyana's recent oil tender, arguing that the offshore blocks awarded are in disputed areas and that companies awarded the blocks will not have rights to explore them.

"Two days ago, Venezuela's National Assembly unanimously decided to call our people to vote in a consultative referendum to ratify the defense of our sovereign territory against the aggressions of the American empire, which wants to lead us to a war for natural resources," Gil told the UN General Assembly in New York.

Guayana is supported by the United States, Gil added, without offering further details about the referendum. Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) has not commented on the proposed referendum.

Guyana and Venezuela have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over their borders. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in April ruled it had jurisdiction over the issue, which could determine which country has rights to territory rich in oil and gas, especially offshore.

On Wednesday, US Deputy Secretary of State Brian Nichols said Washington supported Guyana's right to develop its natural resources.

(Reporting by Noe Torres; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by David Gregorio)

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