Legal experts, Opposition & diplomats consulted before decision to meet Maduro – Pres Ali

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Dr Irfaan Ali has assured that all relevant stakeholders, including legal experts, diplomats and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, were consulted before he agreed to a regionally brokered meeting between himself and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The President gave this assurance in an address to the nation, during which he explained the reasoning behind agreeing to meet Maduro in St Vincent and the Grenadines on December 14, with the aim of deescalating the hostilities and bellicosity with which Venezuela has been threatening Guyana’s territory.

The meeting came about through the interventions of St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. According to Ali, all stakeholders were consulted before the offer to meet with Maduro was accepted, adding that a condition of acceptance was that the border case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be non-negotiable.

“Two nights ago, Caricom heads convened an emergency meeting, in which a meeting was proposed with President Maduro in St Vincent, with Caricom, Prime Minister Gonsalves convening and the President of Brazil, being observers to that meeting. I immediately consulted with all stakeholders, our lawyers, our technical team, our agent, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And I had a conversation with the Leader of the Opposition.”

“Updating all of them on the development and having discussions around different ideas. After these consultations, I agreed that Guyana and I, will patriciate in a meeting on Thursday. In that meeting, we’ll have a conversation with President Maduro. I made it very clear, that on the issue of the border controversy, Guyana’s position is non-negotiable. That is, this is before the ICJ,” the Head of State said.

President Ali was optimistic that coming out of the meeting, good sense would prevail on the Venezuelan side that would result in commitment to peace and stability being made and the removal of the threat to disrupt Guyana’s exploration of its resources in its own territory.

In the meantime, the President reinforced that Government will continue to push for investments and development of Guyana’s resources, in all corners of the country.

“I assure all Guyanese, that I will do everything to ensure a peaceful defence and protection of all of our country. And our borders. And ensuring that like Demerara and Berbice, the development, security and peace of Essequibo, is never compromised. All our counties, every one of our regions, will continue to prosper,” the President said.

“I assure all Guyanese, all investors. Our development, in all 10 of our administrative regions, all three of our counties, will continue unimpeded. Continue to push our investment, our investors, to work aggressively to bring prosperity to our country and by extension, to our Region. I want to also say that our collaboration and social, developmental and defence cooperation, our training exchange programmes, will continue as planned.”

President Ali also dispatched a letter to Prime Minister Gonsalves, in which he formally accepted the meeting and made it clear that there would only be “appropriate dialogue between the leaders of Venezuela and Guyana to ensure peaceful coexistence, the application and respect for international law and the avoidance of the use or threats of force.

The President also recalled that when the meeting was discussed with Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government, his counterparts in Caricom had reaffirmed their support for the Region remaining a zone of peace, for Guyana to resolve the border controversy at the ICJ and they had further urged Venezuela to respect the conservatory measures laid down by the World Court ahead of their referendum.

“It is in the framework of those Caricom commitments that I shall participate on December 14, 2023 for appropriate dialogue with his excellency President Maduro,” President Ali said in a letter that was also copied to Maduro, Lula da Silva, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, the Chairman of Caricom and Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett.

Earlier on Saturday, President Maduro engaged Brazilian and Vincentian leaders via a telephone call. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil later informed that the general consensus was to ‘preserve our aspiration to maintain Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, without interference from external actors, in accordance with what was agreed upon by both countries within the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)’.

Maduro also spoke with Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who committed to ‘promoting efforts in favour of direct dialogue between the parties’ and recalled that he has always offered his good offices for the solution of the controversy.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued after the intended meeting was announced, Guyana’s parliamentary Opposition had said that it welcomes the action being taken by the international community to ensure there is peace between Guyana and Venezuela.

However, the Opposition had pointed out that there “must not be any discussions of the territorial controversy between our two countries as this matter is properly before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and this process must be allowed to take its course so that it is settled within the confines of international law.”