(Reuters) - Guyana said on Wednesday night that two Venezuelan fighter jets entered its airspace, circling a community on the countries’ shared border before returning to their own territory, though Venezuela’s government disputed the claim.
The incident is the latest in a long-running border conflict between the two South American nations.
Caracas says much of eastern Guyana is its own territory, a claim rejected by Georgetown. The conflict has flared up in recent years as Guyana has started developing oil reserves near the disputed area.
Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that two Venezuelan army Sukhoi SU 30 fighter jets had flown over the community of Eteringbang and a nearby airstrip along the countries shared border at a “very low altitude of 1500 feet” on Tuesday at about 1:20 p.m. They circled once before flying back into Venezuela, the statement added.
The incident comes after a Venezuelan navy vessel detained two vessels that were fishing in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in January.
EEZs are maritime areas in which countries have special rights with regards to the exploration and use of marine resources.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro earlier this month issued a decree creating a “Strategic Zone for the Development of the Atlantic Facade” in an area that Guyana says encompasses its EEZ and its territorial waters.
“The Government of Guyana condemns this latest act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces as a violation of the sovereignty of Guyana over the air above its territory,” the statement said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in a Twitter post later on Wednesday described the flights as “regular border patrol operations” by the armed forces that took place in “non-disputed territory.”
Reporting by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Leslie Adler and Nick Zieminski
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