Border controversy: UK welcomes Venezuela’s commitment to refrain from using force against Guyana

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron (Photo: Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Image)

– British Minister for Americas to visit Georgetown soon

In reiterating its support for Guyana’s sovereignty, the United Kingdom (UK) has welcomed the recent commitment undertaken by Venezuela to refrain from using any force over the Essequibo territory.

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, David Cameron, in a recent tweet, declared that “The statement by Venezuela in St Vincent that it will refrain from the use of force and any further escalation is welcome. And it must be followed by concrete actions. The UK supports efforts by [St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves] to promote peace in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sovereign borders must be respected.”

According to Cameron, who is a former British Prime Minister, the UK will continue to work with partners in the Region and internationally to ensure respect for Guyana’s sovereignty. To this end, he announced in the social media post that “…Minister for the Americas David Rutley will visit Guyana in the coming days to further show our support for the Guyanese people in this vital issue.”

UK Minister for the Americas David Rutley is set to visit Guyana soon

In recent weeks, the UK was among the many countries that stood firmly behind Guyana in the face of heightened tension in the border controversy with Venezuela.

Only earlier this month, Foreign Secretary Cameron made it clear that the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela was settled in 1899 via the Arbitral Award and called on the Spanish-speaking nation to cease its wrongful actions.

“I see absolutely no case for unilateral action by Venezuela. It should cease. It is wrong. I hope to be having some telephone calls later on with the President of Guyana [Dr Irfaan Ali] and others in the Region to ensure that this very retrograde step taken does not lead any further,” Cameron stated.

The unilateral and wrongful action being referred to stemmed from Venezuela’s December 3 referendum in which it sought to claim the Essequibo region – two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, subsequently announced a series of actions including, among other things, issuing identification cards to Guyanese living in Essequibo and issuing licences for mining and other activities in the county of Essequibo.

Given Venezuela’s threatening posture, a historic and highly anticipated Caricom/CELAC/Brazil-brokered meeting was held last week between Presidents Ali and Maduro in St Vincent and the Grenadines geared towards maintaining peace in the Region.

The talks were led by Prime Minister Gonsalves of St Vincent in his role as President Pro Tempore of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), and supported by the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

Presidents Dr Irfaan Ali of Guyana and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela meet face-to-face for discussions on December 14 in St Vincent and the Grenadines

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also played a key role in organising the meeting.

Ahead of those talks, President Ali had maintained that the ongoing border controversy would not be up for discussion or negotiation, insisting that this matter shall be settled by the proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in keeping with the 1966 Geneva Agreement. President Ali had stayed true to this commitment.

After more than eight hours of engagements on Thursday at the Argyle International Airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Presidents Ali and Maduro came to several agreements including 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, titled “Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela”, the two Presidents 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.

The joint declaration states: “The two States will cooperate to avoid incidents on the ground conducive to tension between them. In the event of such an incident, the two States will immediately communicate with one another, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), and the President of Brazil to contain, reverse and prevent its recurrence.”

President of Guyana Dr Irfaan Ali and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Importantly, it was “noted” in the joint declaration that “Guyana’s assertion that it is committed to the process and procedures of the International Court of Justice for the resolution of the border controversy noted Venezuela’s assertion of its lack of consent and lack of recognition of the International Court of Justice and its jurisdiction in the border controversy.”

Further, it was also agreed that the States will continue dialogue on any other pending matters of mutual importance to the two countries, and will immediately establish a joint commission of the Foreign Ministers and technical persons from the two States to address matters as mutually agreed.

This joint commission will submit an update to the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela within three months.

Additionally, both States have agreed to meet again in Brazil within the next three months, or at another agreed time, “to consider any matter with implications for the territory in dispute, including the above-mentioned update of the joint commission.”

At a press briefing earlier in the day, President Ali had said that during the first round of face-to-face talks with his Venezuelan counterpart, the two sides committed to ensuring that the Region must remain a zone of peace.

“The priority is peace, and that every threat of force or the use of force must be denounced, and that every party must take responsibility… We made it very clear that Guyana is not the aggressor, Guyana is not seeking war, but Guyana deserves the right to work with all of our partners to ensure the defence of our country,” he had noted.