“There is a lot to talk about” – Pres. Ali ahead of meeting with Maduro

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

Reaffirming that the current border controversy case between Guyana and Venezuela is not up for discussion, President Dr Irfaan Ali has expressed that there are many other issues to talk about when he meets his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro on Thursday in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Guyanese Head of State has agreed to regionally broker talks with Maduro, who has in recent months intensified aggression and threats against Guyana.

The Guyanese Head of State gave his approval for the meeting after he was contacted by leaders from the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the UN Under-Secretary General.

Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves were integral behind this move, as they wrote letters to both Presidents Ali and Maduro.

These upcoming talks have also been welcomed by Maduro, as a chance for Venezuela to return to good neighbourliness with Guyana. According to him, he remains committed to dialogue that would re-establish peace between the two countries.

However, Maduro expressed a desire to discuss the border controversy currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but this will not find favour with President Ali.

The Guyanese Head of State has already been clear that the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy will not be up for discussion. He reinforced this position on Monday during an interview with reporters.

President Ali explained that even though talks on the border controversy are off the table, there are a number of other matters that can be discussed with Maduro, including issues surrounding migration and climate change.

He indicated that these talks can help to maintain the region as a zone of peace.

President Ali further justified Guyana’s decision to meet with Maduro, explaining that the country has always been committed to good neighbourly relations.

“We don’t live in a region by ourselves, we have respect for our bilateral partners, our regional partners. We have made it very clear our position, we are a peaceful country, our only ambition is to secure and protect what belongs to us and we have absolutely no difficulty meeting with any of our neighbours to ensure that we continue to talk about development, continue to work as neighbours, coexist as neighbours, to work to ensure that his region remains a region of peace, a region of stability…”

President Ali reaffirmed as well that, “we are not going to remove from the ICJ, we are not going to step out of the ICJ, we made it very clear that this case shall be settled by the ICJ.”

Noting that Guyana is not the aggressor in this situation, President Ali further expressed that “we want peace, we aren’t the aggressors here…our military was not formed to go to war, it was formed to ensure there is peace and to protect our borders…we want peace but we must be respected!”

“We don’t want to wake up every morning with someone threatening us. We don’t threaten anyone. Have you ever heard the President of Guyana or any one of our military official threatening anyone in Venezuela? Every day you can hear a threat coming to us; even under those conditions we are willing to talk, we are willing act in a responsible manner…”

Presented with a scenario that Maduro will push to have the border controversy case brought up for talks, President Ali reminded that the Geneva Agreement provided for the UN Secretary General to appoint a place where this controversy should be settled; and he has appointed the ICJ. “…that is where we should respect and that is where it shall be settled.”

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 has heated up after ExxonMobil found oil in Essequibo in 2015.

Because of this, Guyana launched a World Court case against Venezuela in 2018, to confirm that the border was established in an arbitration between the then-colony of British Guiana and Venezuela in 1899.

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, then Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, following a careful analysis of developments in 2017, chose the ICJ as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.

The Essequibo accounts for almost two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, with around 125,000 of the country’s 800,000 inhabitants living there.

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.