Jan 10, 2021 News
Officer-in-Charge of the Venezuelan Embassy summoned
Kaieteur News – President Irfaan Ali has thoroughly rejected the latest decree by Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro following a recent statement in which he vowed to reconquer the Essequibo as a territory of the Bolivarian Republic.
The decree comes weeks after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down a decision that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute over the validity of the Arbitration Award of 1899 which gave Guyana rights to the territories of Essequibo. The case is ongoing and is expected to be ventilated through the ICJ within the next 24 months.
Given the recent developments from the neighbouring territory, President Ali announced in a live broadcast address to the nation yesterday that Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd has been instructed to summon the Officer-in-Charge of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown to express Guyana’s deep concern about the decree.
He said that the Officer-in-Charge has been told to convey to the Venezuelan authorities in Caracas, that, in accordance with international law, and its assertion of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Guyana rejects entirely the decree issued by President Maduro.
The President noted that Guyana is committed to continue on the path of peaceful resolution of this matter in keeping with international law and the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
“It is, therefore, deeply disturbing that,” he said that “on January 7th, the President of Venezuela, Mr. Nicolas Maduro, issued a decree claiming Venezuela sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.”
In this regard, President Ali reminded that sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, which is valid and legally binding.”
“Regrettably,” he emphasized that by decreeing that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two fundamental principles of international law have been violated.
“The first violation,” he said “is that no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether they are land boundaries or maritime boundaries. The fixing of an international boundary under international law can only result from an agreement between neighbouring States, or a binding determination by an international court or arbitral tribunal.”
He noted therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to unilaterally fix both its land and maritime boundaries with Guyana is a legal nullity, which cannot, and will not, be respected by any other state in the world, including Guyana.
The second violation of fundamental international law, the President said, is based on the fact that, under well-established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that “the land dominates the sea”.
“This means that sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the sea and seabed, emanate from title to the land that forms the coast to which those seas and seabed are adjacent. Since Guyana is sovereign over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows, consequently, that only Guyana can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed,” he explained.
According to Ali, this is precisely the issue that is before the ICJ, and which, on 18 December 2020, the ICJ decided to resolve, i.e., whether Guyana or Venezuela is sovereign over that land territory.
The President expressed confidence that the Court will resolve the issue in its favour, and that this will necessarily also settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed.
The President noted that “Guyana has always acted as a peaceful party in the process of finding a resolution and will continue to do until the conclusion of the matter before the ICJ.
“Guyana has done so even as we pursued our right to request the UN Secretary-General to refer to the ICJ, the long-standing contention with Venezuela over the 1899 arbitral award,” Ali stated adding that “at no time, have we engaged in making any statements regarding the continuing inflammatory remarks, emanating from the Government and other parties in Venezuela, except to continue to affirm our nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The President stressed therefore that he is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will unequivocally uphold Guyana’s position. President Ali also expressed the hope that the Venezuelan government will reconsider its position and will decide to participate in the remainder of the proceedings before the ICJ, as the Court decides upon the validity and binding character of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the international boundary that it created.
He noted however, that should Venezuela choose to boycott the ICJ’s proceedings, it will not deter nor delay the Court from adjudicating the case.
He noted too that despite its non-participation in the proceedings Venezuela does not have the “right” to “reject” the Court’s binding decision.
The President noted that the rules of the Court expressly provide that the deliberate absence of one of the parties shall not prevent it from deciding a case.
In the meantime, Ali said that the Government has alerted the International Community, including those in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and in the Americas of the danger to international peace and security that is being threatened by this latest decree, one which violates fundamental principles of international law.
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