Venezuela wants to re-establish direct dialogue with Guyana after Saturday’s incursion

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The Venezuelan Government says it wants to re-establish direct dialogue with Guyana after its Army forced out a research vessel operating at sea under Guyanese licence.

The settlement of the more than century-old border controversy has been referred to the International Court of Justice, but Venezuelan is refusing to participate in the process and had said it wanted the matter resolved through friendly negotiations.

As far as Guyana is concerned, the time for talk is over on that subject, preferring a legally-binding settlement in court.

ExxonMobil’s Norwegian contractor PGS was operating the research vessel – the Ramform Tethys – when it intercepted by the Venezuelan navy at 10:30 hrs on Saturday.

The vessel, with 70 crew onboard, was ordered to leave the area.

The Guyana Government called the move Venezuela’s “latest act of illegality and blatant disrespect for Guyana’s sovereignty.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the vessel was intercepted in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Guyana at a position of N 09 deg 17.19 min / W 058 deg 16.20 min at an approximate distance of 140 Km from the nearest point to the provisional equidistant line with Venezuela.

In a statement tweeted Sunday afternoon by the Venezuela Foreign Minister Jorge Areazza, Venezuela claimed that the Venezuelan navy was conducting regular patrols when it encountered the two vessels in what it said was “undoubtedly Venezuelan sovereignty” and “proceeded to apply the appropriate international protocols.”

Guyana has protested Venezuelan’s action at the United Nations and said it was also writing the Governments of the crew members who were onboard.

After decades of dialogue failed, On January 30th last, the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres chose adjudication by the International Court of Justice Court as the means for resolving the controversy with finality.

Guyana commenced proceedings before the Court on 29 March 2018 in accordance with the Secretary-General’s decision.

The Court first asked that Guyana prove that it (the Court) has jurisdiction to resolve the controversy.

On November 19 last, the Guyana Government submitted to the Court its Memorial detailing why the court has jurisdiction in the case brought against Venezuela to confirm, in a final and binding judgment, the full legal validity of the arbitral award that established the international boundary between Guyana and Venezuela more than a century ago.

“Guyana filed its Memorial in accordance with the Order of the Court dated 19 June 2018 that determined it would first resolve the question of the Court’s jurisdiction in light of Venezuela’s refusal to participate in the proceedings based on its claim that the Court lacks jurisdiction,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement then.

According to the Ministry, Guyana’s Memorial shows there is no foundation to Venezuela’s contention that the means of settlement listed in Article 33 of the UN Charter must be selected by the Secretary-General successively, such that the means listed ahead of judicial settlement have to be exhausted before recourse to the Court can be chosen.

Guyana argues that nothing in the text of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement, which provides a menu of options, not a predetermined sequence, supports Venezuela’s interpretation.

“Nor is Venezuela correct in arguing that, as it has recently asserted, the controversy must be resolved exclusively by friendly negotiations, a claim that is belied by the express terms of the Geneva Agreement and contemporaneous statements by the parties during its negotiation and ratification.”

The Ministry noted that Guyana prepared its Memorial bearing in mind the Court’s instruction that it should be informed of all the legal and factual grounds on which the parties rely in the matter of its jurisdiction.

Therefore, the Ministry said Guyana’s submission accordingly sets out how the boundary with Venezuela was established by an arbitral tribunal constituted pursuant to a treaty concluded by Venezuela and Great Britain in 1897.

Venezuela accepted this unanimous award, which was rendered by five eminent jurists on 3 October 1899, celebrated its outcome, participated in a joint commission to demarcate the boundary on the ground, and insisted on the award’s strict implementation.

Only decades later did Venezuela, in anticipation of Guyana’s independence, cease recognizing the award’s validity and binding nature, using that pretext to lay claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

To ensure a final resolution to the controversy through peaceful means, the Government of British Guiana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom concluded the Geneva Agreement on 17 February 1966.

Article IV of that treaty authorizes the Secretary-General of the United Nations to decide which of the means listed in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter – which includes binding adjudication by the International Court of Justice – shall be used to resolve the controversy.

In agreeing to Article IV, Venezuela consented to the Court’s jurisdiction in the event the Secretary-General decides that the controversy should be resolved by the Court.

Efforts over more than half-a-century, including a four-year Mixed Commission, a twelve-year moratorium, a seven-year process of consultations on a means of settlement (1983-1990), and a twenty-seven-year Good Offices Process under the UN Secretary-General’s authority (1990-2017), all failed to end the controversy.

“Guyana expresses its sincere hope that Venezuela will reconsider its refusal to participate in the judicial process that the UN Secretary-General has decided will be the means by which the controversy will be resolved,” the Ministry stated.

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