Guyana’s Head of State, President Irfaan Ali in an address to the nation on Saturday rejected in its entirety the latest decree issued by Venezuela’s Nicholas Maduro in which he lays fresh claims to the water and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.
Dr Ali said the Officer-in-charge of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown was summoned to Takuba Lodge earlier on Saturday by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd where Guyana’s “deep concern” was expressed.
“The Officer-in-Charge has been told to convey to the Venezuelan authorities in Caracas, that, in accordance with international law, and is assertion of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Guyana rejects entirely the decree issued by President Maduro. Guyana will continue on the path of peaceful resolution of this matter in keeping with international law and the jurisdiction of the ICJ. We urge our neighbour Venezuela to do the same,” Dr. Ali said.
The President told his fellow countrymen and women in a televised address from State House that Guyana continues to look forward to a peaceful resolution to the decades-old border controversy between the neighboring states, in keeping with international law.
The President said Maduro has clearly violated the principles of international law by unilaterally declaring the sea adjacent to Guyana’s Essequibo to belong to Venezuela.
“Regrettably, 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 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. Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to attempt, unilaterally, to 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.”
President Ali insisted on the validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award which determined the boundaries between the two countries and said he is confident that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold that.
The Head-of-State said Guyana will be alerting the International Community, including its sister-states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and in the Americas of the danger to international peace and security that is being threatened by last Thursday’s “Venezuela decree which violates fundamental principles of international law.”
Dr. Ali said Maduro committed another violation when he made the decree because it goes against the well-established rules and fundamental principles that the land dominates the sea.
To this end, he said only Guyana can enjoy sovereign rights over the sea and sea bed adjacent to its land. He believes that both the land and maritime claims by Venezuela will be resolved when the ICJ hears and rules in the matter.
But Venezuela had rejected the recent judgment handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which it ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana/Venezuela controversy case.
“Venezuela does not have the right to reject the court’s ruling… I hope the government will reconsider its position and participate in the remainder of the proceedings. Should Venezuela choose to boycott the ICJ proceedings it will not deter or delay the court from adjudicating the case,” he added.
In the judgment, President of the ICJ, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said the court concluded that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s claims concerning the validity of the 1899 Award and related questions of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute.
The court decided that the referral of the matter to the ICJ by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on January 30, 2018, was legal as is contemplated in the agreement.
Judge Yusuf expressed regret at the decision taken by Venezuela not to participate in the hearings so far. He said the non-appearance of any party has a negative impact on the administration of justice, but noted that even in Venezuela’s absence, the judgment is final and binding on both parties.
The Court’s President said now that the ICJ has claimed jurisdiction, Venezuela will be able, if it so wishes, to appear before the court to present its arguments.
According to the judgment, the 1899 Award states that both Guyana and Venezuela consented to the means of a judicial settlement. The full text of the judgment will be available on the ICJ’s website shortly.
Venezuela is maintaining a claim to 70% of Guyana’s territory, arguing that the 1899 agreement, which determined the boundaries between the two countries, is null and void.