Royal Navy warship sent to Guyana as tensions rise

A Royal Navy warship will be sent to Guyana in a show of British support for the Commonwealth nation.

The South American nation is in a dispute with Venezuela over a mineral-rich border region.

HMS Trent will take part in joint exercises with Guyana after Christmas.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “HMS Trent will visit regional ally and Commonwealth partner Guyana later this month as part of a series of engagements in the region during her Atlantic patrol task deployment.”

HMS Trent
The Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Trent is in the Caribbean and will head to Guyana later this month (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Tension over the border region of Essequibo has raised worries about a military conflict, with Venezuela insisting Essequibo was part of its territory during the Spanish colonial period and arguing a 1966 Geneva agreement with Britain and then-British Guiana, now Guyana, nullified a border drawn in 1899 by international arbitrators.

The dispute was reignited with the discovery of oil in Guyana and escalated when Venezuela voted in a referendum on December 3 to claim two-thirds of its smaller neighbour.

The offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent is in Barbados over Christmas and will then head to Guyana for activities which will be carried out at sea.

The ship is not expected to dock in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital.

Earlier this month, Foreign Office minister for the Americas and Caribbean David Rutley visited Guyana.

He said: “The border issue has been settled for over 120 years. Sovereign borders must be respected wherever they are in the world.”

Mr Rutley said Venezuela had promised to refrain from the use of force and any further escalation in the dispute.

He added that the UK would work internationally “to ensure the territorial integrity of Guyana is upheld”.

HMS Trent is a River-class patrol vessel, designed for work including what the Government describes as “defence diplomacy”.