Only int’l mechanisms can solve Venezuela’s border controversy with Guyana – DR Ambassador

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Dominican Republic Ambassador Ernesto Torres Pereyra

Amid tensions between Guyana and Venezuela in recent months and the recent adoption of a law by the Venezuelan National Assembly seeking to declare the Essequibo region of Guyana part of the Spanish-speaking nation, the Dominican Republic called for the region to remain a zone of peace and urged that dialogue guide the way forward.

During a sit-down with the media, Dominican Republic Ambassador Ernesto Torres Pereyra was asked about the DR’s stance on the Venezuela border controversy. He noted that his country was against any actions that would jeopardise the peace in the region, and he reminded of the importance of relying on international mechanisms to resolve disputes, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Any action that can be a factor to alter the peace in the region is a matter of great concern. We were very empathetic in expressing our point of view about this issue. And we believe that the international mechanisms are the only viable way of solving such a situation,” Pereyra said.

He added, “We – in any way, shape and form – believe that independent individual acts that can compromise the status quo and the atmosphere of stability and peace in the region should be (avoided). We should promote dialogue and also the utilisation of international mechanisms to solve any kind of dispute as the only way to settle any kind of controversy. This is what we believe.”

On Friday, the Guyana Government expressed grave concern over the adoption of the law by the Venezuelan National Assembly on Essequibo – more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

“Guyana remains committed to peace on its borders and in the region. It will not allow its sovereignty and territorial territory to be usurped. Guyana will exert all of its efforts under international law to ensure that its sovereignty and territorial integrity remain intact,” the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry in Georgetown said in a statement on Friday.

According to the Ministry, this move by Venezuela is a flagrant violation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is in breach of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

“It is also an egregious violation of the order on provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice on December 1, 2023, and it is a violation of the Argyle Declaration of December 14, 2023, agreed to by the leaders of Caricom and Brazil, the representative of the United Nations Secretary General and by the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela,” the statement detailed.

On this note, “Guyana calls on the international community to uphold the rule of law by rejecting Venezuela’s illegal expansionism and by insisting that Venezuela revert to the International Court of Justice, which has before it the case for a full and final resolution of the controversy over the land border between the two countries.”

Before this missive from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Guyana’s Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn on Friday morning also called out Venezuela over its blatant violation of the Argyle Declaration – a pact which sought to maintain the region as a zone of peace. It was signed by President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, last year.

“We deplore [and] we are unhappy that the Government of Venezuela and its National Assembly just yesterday agreed that they will make Essequibo formally – no longer a zone in Reclamación (Zone in Reclamation) but Venezuelan territory. This is highly regrettable and it violates the principles of the good-faith discussions which were undertaken at Argyle and more laterally in Brazil,” Benn stated.

In 2018, Guyana moved to the World Court, seeking a final and binding ruling on the October 3, 1899 Arbitral Award that settled the border between the two countries. However, since then, there have been heightened tensions between the South American neighbours, with both countries beefing up their military presence at the border.

Venezuela had challenged Guyana’s move to settle the matter, but the ICJ ruled in December 2020 that it has jurisdiction to entertain the application for a final settlement. Having rejected both of Venezuela’s preliminary objections, the ICJ has set April 8, 2024, as the time limit for the filing of a Counter-Memorial by Venezuela.

Tensions between Guyana and Venezuela escalated when the Maduro Government held a referendum on December 3, 2023, purporting to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region. Following the referendum, Venezuelan President Maduro announced a series of actions, including issuing identification cards to Guyanese living in Essequibo and issuing licences for mining and other activities in Guyana’s Essequibo.

Given Venezuela’s threatening posture, a Caribbean Community (Caricom)/the Community Of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC)/Brazil-brokered historic meeting was held on December 14, 2023, between Presidents Ali and Maduro at the Argyle International Airport, St Vincent and the Grenadines, geared towards maintaining peace in the region.

The two South American leaders signed the Argyle Declaration, agreeing that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, would not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstance, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States, and controversies between the two States would be resolved by international law, including the Geneva Agreement, among other points.