The visit of a United Kingdom (UK) warship, HMS Trent, to Guyana’s waters, has prompted Venezuela to complain despite the fact that the UK habitually sends warships to the Caribbean to further bilateral relations.
However, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in his role as interlocutor between the two nations following the recent Argyle declaration, has said that commitments from both Guyana and Venezuela that they remain committed to peace and that very declaration.
The Prime Minister was quoted saying this by the St. Vincent Times, following a radio interview he did. During that radio interview, Gonsalves said that he has been in contact with both President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro.
“I think we will have things like this over the period, as you would expect. As an interlocutor, I was in touch with the president of Guyana and the president of Venezuela, with assurances given from either side of commitment to peace and continued dialogue,” Gonsalves was quoted as saying.
He noted that western countries such as the US habitually conduct training exercises in St Vincent and other countries, though he went on to commiserate with Venezuela’s concern about the UK warship. Gonsalves noted that Venezuela’s response to the UK vessel has not been belligerent, but rather one of concern.
“The US Southern Command has conducted training exercises in St Vincent and other countries of a limited kind, but Venezuela will naturally be concerned… I read the Venezuelan statement very carefully; they consider this an act of provocation.”
“They didn’t say it was a threat, but what they said was a threat was taken into conjunction with activities with the US Southern Command. It appears that the conjoined present a threat of force. The statement was firm, but the statement was not particularly belligerent,” the Prime Minister said.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense had announced on Sunday that the HMS Trent, a river class patrol vessel, would be deployed soon to Guyana. According to the Ministry, the ship will take part in joint exercises with Guyana after Christmas.
Not long after the announcement, Venezuela’s Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez had tweeted that they would remain “on alert following provocations that put at risk the peace and stability of the Caribbean and our America.”
The ship’s trip comes after a recent visit of UK Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Rutley, to Guyana where he met with President Ali and other top officials. That meeting saw discussions on expanding relations between the UK and Guyana, in sustainable and economic development and security.
According to the British Foreign Office, Rutley, while in Guyana, expressed the UK’s unequivocal backing for Guyana against Venezuela’s territorial claims. Further, he expressed that the border between the two countries had been settled over 120 years ago and that sovereign borders must be respected.
“I am in Guyana, a fellow Commonwealth member, to offer the UK’s unequivocal backing to our Guyanese friends. The border issue has been settled for over 120 years. Sovereign borders must be respected wherever they are in the world,” Rutley said.
Additionally, he welcomed the recent Argyle declaration in St Vincent and the Grenadines, for non-violence between Guyana and Venezuela. The Under Secretary also expressed that the UK would continue its collaboration with regional partners and international bodies, to help protect Guyana’s territorial integrity.
Venezuela has, in recent months, intensified its threats and aggression towards Guyana but the two countries recently signed a joint declaration agreeing not to use force or threats amid the controversy.
On Thursday, December 14, 2023, in Argyle, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Presidents Ali and Maduro held discussions on matters consequential to the territory involved in the border controversy.
After more than eight hours of engagements, the two Heads of State agreed that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, will not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstance, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States.
In a joint declaration, the Heads also agreed that any controversy between the two States would be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966.
The two countries have also committed to the pursuance of good neighbourliness, peaceful coexistence, and the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean. It was also agreed that both States would refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict or disagreement arising from any controversy.