In what is being seen as a huge victory for Guyana, and after another year of failed border settlement talks between this country and neighbouring Venezuela by the United Nations, there is heartening news.
Guyana is now heading to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a final resolution on the border controversy.
The outcome would be what Guyana has been insisting for…a settlement once and for all for a huge swath of mineral-rich Essequibo that Venezuela has been claiming for the last century.
The decision was widely anticipated since earlier this month with both the Government of Guyana and the United Nations yesterday issuing separate statements.
Guyana’s push to have the matter settled finally in the ICJ would come after Venezuela suspended a lucrative oil-for-rice deal with this country in 2015.
That date would be significant as the Coalition Government took office in May 2015, immediately facing the loss of the rice market and learning that a huge quantity of oil had been discovered in the Stabroek offshore block by ExxonMobil.
Venezuela immediately published maps too claiming the offshore areas where the oil was found.
In late 2015, President David Granger appealed to the United Nations for a peaceful resolution, signaling this country’s intentions to have the matter handled by the respected ICJ.
Welcoming the decision of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday disclosed that the matter has been referred to the ICJ.
“Guyana has always held the view that the ICJ is the appropriate forum for the peaceful and definitive settlement of the controversy, and is pleased that that view has prevailed under the process developed by both Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.”
In a tone of reconciliation, Government said it will not allow “factors extraneous” to the controversy to influence its referral to the Court; “but it will continue the advancement of peaceful relations with Venezuela whose people are the brothers and sisters of Guyanese. In this context, Guyana acknowledges the Secretary General’s suggestions for the immediate future.”
The ministry said that Guyana has stood firm against Venezuela’s attempt to re-open a territorial boundary settled and recognised for half a century before its independence.
Guyana has stood its grounds despite the manifest unequal strengths between the two countries, which is to this country’s national credit.
“Guyana, as one of the world’s small developing countries, is pleased that its reliance on the rule of law internationally has been the underpinning of its national sovereignty.”
Meanwhile, the UN in a statement attributable to Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General Guturres, explained that the longstanding border controversy between the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void.
“In the Geneva Agreement of 1966, Guyana and Venezuela conferred upon the Secretary-General the power and responsibility to choose a means of peaceful settlement from amongst those contemplated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Geneva Agreement also provides that if the means so chosen does not lead to a solution of the controversy, the Secretary-General is to choose another means of settlement.”
The Spokesperson pointed out that former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon communicated to the parties on 15 December 2016 a framework for the resolution of the border controversy based on his conclusions on what would constitute the most appropriate next steps.
“Notably, he concluded that the Good Offices Process, which had been conducted since 1990, would continue for one final year, until the end of 2017, with a strengthened mandate of mediation.
“ He also reached the conclusion that if, by the end of 2017, his successor, Secretary-General António Guterres, concluded that significant progress had not been made towards arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he would choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly requested that he refrain from doing so.”
The UN statement disclosed that it was in early 2017, that Secretary-General Guterres appointed a Personal Representative, Ambassador Dag Halvor Nylander, who engaged in intensive high-level efforts to seek a negotiated settlement to the controversy.
Explaining the decision to refer the matter to the ICJ route, the UN said that the Secretary-General has carefully analysed developments in 2017 in the Good Offices Process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy.
“Accordingly, the Secretary-General has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.”
The statement said that the decision, has also concluded that Guyana and Venezuela could benefit from the continued good offices of the United Nations through a complementary process established on the basis of the powers of the Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations.
“The Secretary-General, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, remains committed to accompany both States as they seek to overcome their differences regarding this border controversy.”
The decision to go to the ICJ would also have to do with the oil that Guyana has found.
While boasting one of the biggest reserves in the world, Venezuela is facing runaway inflation. The border controversy has been seen as an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to shift the attention away from the internal turmoil, which has seen widespread protests, and shortages of food and medicines.
President David Granger last evening addressed the nation on the matter.
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