Meeting between Guyana, Venezuela Foreign Ministers “very important step” in implementing Joint Declaration of Argyle – Pres Ali

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

President Dr Irfaan Ali has described today’s meeting between Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd, and his Venezuelan counterpart as a critical step toward implementing the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace, which the two South American neighbours signed in December 2023.

This will be the joint commission’s inaugural meeting, as the Declaration intended, and it will take place in Brasilia, Brazil. In an effort to reduce tensions over a long-running border controversy over Guyana’s Essequibo region, President Ali and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met at the Argyle International Airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in December 2023.]

Those discussions were facilitated by the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Pro-Tempore President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit.

Two-thirds of Guyana’s land is made up of the resource-rich Essequibo county, which is claimed by Venezuela. Following their meeting, Venezuela and Guyana issued the 11-point declaration that included a promise to refrain from using military force, to work together to prevent border incidents, and to continue dialogue to resolve unresolved issues.

Important step

“The meeting is a very important step in fulfilling what we agreed on in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and that was the establishment of this commission to look at all the consequential matters, to develop an agenda so that the conversation between the two countries can continue and setting the stage for the meetings between the two Presidents,” stated President Ali on Wednesday during an interview at his official residence, State House.

Guyana has acted swiftly to uphold the Agreement, according to the Head of State.

President Dr Irfaan Ali flanked by Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Foreign Minister Hugh Todd during a news conference in St. Vincent back in December, 2023

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd

President Ali noted that the meeting today would continue discussions between Guyana and Venezuela on extremely important issues and that “it adds to the stability and peaceful environment”.

Most importantly, he said, “It gives us [Guyana and Venezuela] the opportunity to outline an agenda with items that both sides will want to speak on.”

The Guyanese leader stated that trade, climate, energy, security, and initiatives to increase trade and strengthen neighbourly relations are among the subjects up for discussion.

The meeting will be attended by the Foreign Ministers and technical persons of both countries, and its main aim will be addressing matters, “as mutually agreed”.

The Guyana delegation will be led by Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Hilton Todd; Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud; Permanent Secretary Ambassador Elisabeth Harper; Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Richard Van West-Charles; Director of the Frontiers Department, Donnette Streete; and Chargé d’Affaires of the Guyana Embassy in Brazil, Vernon Robinson.

Guyana remains fully committed to the principles of the Argyle Declaration, in particular the maintenance of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Border controversy

Venezuela maintains that the border with Guyana, a former colony of the United Kingdom (UK), was fraudulently imposed by the British.

Guyana, on the other hand, maintains that the line was conclusively determined on October 3, 1899 — 124 years ago — by an arbitration panel (Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899)

This border was demarcated jointly by Venezuela and Britain in 1907.

However, on February 14, 1962, Venezuela informed the United Nations Secretary-General that it considered there to be a “dispute” between itself and the UK “concerning the demarcation of the frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana”.

After various attempts to resolve the matter had failed, the representatives of the UK, Venezuela, and British Guiana signed the Geneva Agreement on February 17, 1966.

On February 17, 1966, just before attaining independence, Guyana became a party to the Geneva Agreement. Attempts were made in the ensuing decades to resolve the controversy through different means of settlement outlined in the Geneva Agreement.

Finally, after no agreement had been reached, as per the procedure adumbrated in the Agreement, Guyana, in January 2018, asked the United Nations Secretary-General to choose a mechanism to settle the controversy.

He chose the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the means to resolve the controversy legally.

In the substantive case of 2018, Guyana, among other things, seeks to obtain from the ICJ a final and binding judgment that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding; and a declaration that Essequibo belongs to Guyana. In the major case, however, a final ruling might not be made for years. Through orders issued last month, the ICJ has prohibited Venezuela from challenging Guyana’s sovereignty over Essequibo until a final ruling in the case is made.