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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has led a delegation including National Security Minister Stuart Young and Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses to talks with United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Joseph Mondello, in an attempt to soothe troubled relations between the superpower and this country.

The meeting came one day after Mondello, on May 19 via a press release, issued a public slap on the wrist to Young over a conversation the two held on May 6 which discussed the visit to T&T of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez in relation to the Rio Treaty.

In his press release on the matter, Mondello admitted that he does not normally comment on private conversations with host government officials. But he said he felt he had to respond after Young, on May 13 in response to a question in the Senate, revealed some of the details of their conversation.

Mondello said, “I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the Minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port-of-Spain with T&T’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty. Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation—like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodriguez—are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures.”

Young had told the Senate on May 13 that “the United States government’s head and top diplomat in T&T, that is the Ambassador, not any underling who may or may not be speaking to the media, the United States Ambassador, had a conversation with me as a representative of the Cabinet-level of the Government and there were other conversations had and there was no raising of the breach of any Treaty.”

The public spat prompted two luminaries, Martin Daly SC and former diplomat Reginald Dumas, to call for an end to the megaphone diplomacy, given the negative impact any bad relationship with the US could have on this country. But it seems evens before the Daly/Dumas joint release on Thursday, the Government had already engaged Mondello.

A press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday stated that the Prime Minister, in the company of Young and Moses on Wednesday (May 20) held “extensive and cordial discussions with US Ambassador Mondello and other officials from the US Embassy.”

According to the release, the discussions were wide-ranging and included “Trinidad and Tobago’s desire to further protect its maritime space.” It noted that the point was made that this country was “constrained by the limited availability of suitable offshore marine assets.”

To this end, the T&T delegation requested from the United States “the further sharing of any and all pertinent information which may come to its attention with respect to any illicit activity which may occur within the territorial or deep ocean areas over which T&T has jurisdiction.”

The release was clear that contrary to “any view which might be propagated in some quarters” in T&T that the relationship between this country and the United States “is in jeopardy,” the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs can confirm that “nothing is further from the truth.”

The release noted that it was in furtherance of “our mutual interests, buttressed by respect for each other’s sovereignty and a clear understanding of each other’s foreign policy positions,” that T&T has “consistently remained engaged with the United States of America.”

It noted that high-level contacts between this country’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, National Security and the Prime Minister “are frequent occurrences in the conduct of our diplomatic cooperation.”

Just one day after the visit of Rodriguez and her delegation to this country, Paria Fuel Shipping Company started discussions with ES Euro Shipping SA for sale of 150,000 barrels of fuel, which was said to be bound for Aruba.

Tracking of the vessel, the MT Aldan, which loaded with the fuel from Pointe-a-Pierre, shows that the signal of the vessel disappeared after it travelled 179 nautical miles. Paria published a full-page advertisement on Monday giving details of the contract and the care it took to ensure that the shipment of fuel was not going to Venezuela but was, in fact, being shipped to Aruba.

However, the Aruban government has told the T&T Guardian it does not know where the tanker went as it did not arrive in that country.

“The MT Aldan was not seen on Automatic Identification System within the territorial waters and or the economic zone of Aruba.”

The Aruban government also said it did not do any business with Paria Fuel nor authorised anyone in that country to do so on its behalf.

Checks on marine sites yesterday showed that the Aldan had been deemed “decommissioned” or “lost.” There has been no tracking information available on the vessel for 30 days.