By Devina Samaroo in St Vincent and the Grenadines
History will take place today at the Argyle International Airport Inc in St Vincent and the Grenadines as Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro meet to discuss issues aimed at maintaining regional peace and stability.
Expectations are high, since Venezuela, in recent months, has intensified its threats and aggression towards Guyana and continues to peddle false narratives regarding the border controversy.
Argyle International Airport Inc in St Vincent and the Grenadines
These talks were largely brokered by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in his role as President Pro Tempore of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), and came in the wake of a discussion President Ali held with the leadership of the Caribbean Community (Caricom). Current Chairman of Caricom, Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica, is slated to be at the engagement, as well as Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a key supporter of the talks, will be represented by his Foreign Policy Advisor.
President Ali has since made it clear that the matter of the border controversy was not up for discussion, as it was being adjudicated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Guyanese leader had explained that even though talks on the border controversy were off the table, there are a number of other matters that can be discussed with Maduro, including issues surrounding migration and climate change. He had indicated that these talks could help to maintain the region as a zone of peace.
On the other hand, Maduro, in a letter to PM Gonsalves welcoming the talks, expressed a different interpretation of the meeting’s agenda; “to directly address the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana”.
In fact, his letter contained a number of inaccurate positions, which were promptly clarified by President Ali in a second letter to PM Gonsalves, wherein he maintained that discussions on the border controversy would not be entertained.
Preparations being made on Thursday for the hosting of the Guyana and Venezuela meeting in St Vincent on Friday, December 14th. Various state agencies have been mobilized and are devoted to the task of maintaining peace, friendship and stability in the region (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)
“I, too, have a mandate from the National Assembly of Guyana, which is unanimous in its resolve that the land boundary is not a matter for bilateral discussions and the settlement of the matter is properly on the International Court of Justice where it must remain until the Court gives its final ruling on the merits of the case, which, Guyana has always said and I repeat, will be fully respected by Guyana,” President Ali wrote.
“Let me assure you, Dear Colleague, that I am prepared to speak with President Maduro on any other aspect that may contribute to improving and strengthening amicable relations between our two countries,” he continued in the letter.
Maduro, according to his letter, also has expectations that the meeting’s discourse would touch on topics such as Guyana’s cooperation with the United States of America.
But President Ali reminded that Guyana reserves the right to engage in any form of cooperation with its bilateral partners. He made it clear that there was no military operation aimed at Venezuela taking place in Guyana’s territory and called such claims by the Venezuelan leader “misleading and provocative”.
President Ali was further forced to debunk other inaccuracies in Maduro’s letter, including his claim that Guyana was giving out oil concessions in maritime areas that had not been delimited, even though these concessions are well within the 200 nautical miles of Guyana’s coast that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as a State’s maritime jurisdiction.
Map of Guyana
While engaging with the media earlier this week, President Ali was presented with a scenario during which Maduro pressed to have the border controversy discussed.
But President Ali maintained that there would be no wavering on his position, saying “the 1899 Arbitral Award settled where Essequibo belongs. And it belongs squarely, firmly in the geographic space of Guyana. That is the first thing I would say. The second thing is that the Geneva Agreement provided for the UN Secretary General to appoint a place where this controversy should be settled. He has appointed the ICJ and that is where it should be settled.”
According to the Guyanese leader, “when we get to the talks, there’s a lot still to talk about.”
“We say we’re part of the same region. If we are both concerned about the development of our countries and people, there are so many things to talk about. You have the migration issue, climate change …consequential matters. One of the important things is to ensure this region remains peaceful and stable. And that is talking about the narrative not conducive to peace.”
Venezuela maintains that the border with Guyana, a former colony of The Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK), was fraudulently imposed by the British, which it has denounced as a “land grabber”. Guyana, on the other hand, maintains that the line was determined on October 3, 1899 by an arbitration panel (Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899).
The Anglo-Venezuelan Arbitral Tribunal met in Paris, France, and on October 3, 1899 — 122 years ago — gave its award defining the border between Venezuela and then-British Guiana.
After abiding by the 1899 Arbitral Award for over half a century, Venezuela in 1962 claimed that the Essequibo area of Guyana belonged inside its borders. The debate heated up after ExxonMobil found oil in Guyana in 2015 and has intensified in recent months, with Venezuela holding a referendum on December 3 in which they voted to ‘purported annex the Essequibo; however, the country’s Opposition has since reported that 89 per cent of eligible voters did not vote.
Nevertheless, following the referendum, Maduro claimed that, among other things, he would now authorise oil exploration in Guyana’s Essequibo River.
Maduro also claimed that he has announced the activation of a human and social care plan for the population of Guyana’s Essequibo that includes censuses and identity cards. He also claimed to have announced the creation of the “High Commission for the Defense for Guyana’s Essequibo region”; and the creation of the Comprehensive Defense Zone for Guyana’s territory.
The Venezuelan President also announced that in addition to oil, he would be issuing licences for mining and other activities to be conducted in Guyana’s Essequibo county.
The Maduro regime has been untruthfully claiming that Venezuela demonstrated that the award issued in 1899 by the Paris Arbitration Court was “null and void” and that a solution to the controversy under the Geneva Agreement must be amicably resolved in a manner that is acceptable to both parties, while ignoring that such discussions had failed for over 30 years and that the Geneva Agreement provided for the Secretary General of the United Nations to choose another path for the settlement of the controversy if not settled by discussion between the two countries.
Maduro also ignores the fact that the Secretary General, in accord with the Agreement, on January 30, 2018, had advised both Venezuela and Guyana that “having carefully analysed the developments in the good offices process during the course of 2017” and “significant progress not having been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy”, he had “chosen the International Court of Justice as the means now to be used for its solution”.
Within the framework of the 1966 Geneva Agreement between the two countries, the Secretary General conducted Good Offices processes from 1990 to 2017 to find a solution to the border controversy.
On January 30, 2018, Secretary General António Guterres, following a careful analysis of developments in 2017, chose the ICJ as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.
As a consequence, Guyana, on March 29, 2018, filed its application to the World Court.In the substantive case, Guyana seeks, among other things, to obtain from the ICJ a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding, and a declaration that Essequibo belongs to Guyana.