Guyana willing to strengthen relations with neighbours but will not be ‘sacrificial lamb’ for Venezuela – Pres. Ali
By Vishani Ragobeer
President Dr. Irfaan Ali has highlighted that Guyana is willing to strengthen its relationship with its continental neighbours but he firmly stated that Guyana will not be used as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ in Venezuela’s internal politics.
The President said this during a meeting with residents of Region Two (Pomeroon- Supenaam) on Friday.
The President sought to update the residents on Guyana’s case on the border controversy with Venezuela, which is currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“We are very clear, this matter has been settled but because of the controversy that exists we went to the ICJ and they have ruled that they have jurisdiction,” the President emphasised.
The controversy is that Venezuela is maintaining a claim to some 70 per cent of Guyana’s land- the Essequibo region including Guyana’s offshore oil reserves – the country is arguing that the 1899 agreement, which determined the boundaries between the two countries is null and void.
After other engagements failed, Guyana approached the ICJ to seek a final, binding judgement on the 1899 Arbitral Award that determines that boundary between Guyana and Venezuela. Simply, Guyana is trying to get a final judgment that the Essequibo region does indeed belong to Guyana and not Venezuela.
In December 2020, the ICJ ruled that it has the authority to rule on this case. With the court ruling that it has the jurisdiction to hear the case filed by Guyana, the country has been given until March 8, 2022 to file written pleadings in its case against Venezuela. Meanwhile, Venezuela has until March 8, 2022 to file counterarguments.
And, on Friday, the President emphasised: “.What matters is the court and that is where Guyana is.
“… We will not be bullied, we will not be not be used as a sacrificial lamb on any negotiations internally in Venezuela.”
What the President was referring to was the recent agreement between Venezuela’s government and opposition where the two parties rejected the ICJ’s ruling that it has the authority to rule on the case.
Instead of engaging the ICJ, the two parties are urging Guyana to engage in direct negotiations with Venezuela instead. For context, this agreement was met after Venezuela has been facing a political crisis with both President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition Leader Juan Guaido claiming to be the legitimate leader of the country.
Guyana’s President, however, emphasised that the case is properly before the ICJ.
“We are committed to living peacefully with all our neighbours, we are committed to working to strengthen our relationship with all our neighbours, we are committed to democracy (and) the rule of law, and the integrity of institutions and we don’t waiver in principle….” the Head of State said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd told the Region Two residents that the very soil they are sitting on is what is being claimed by Venezuela.
But, he too emphasised that the case is properly before the ICJ and highlighted that Guyana is expecting a favourable ruling when the final determination is made by the ICJ.
It was only a few months ago, in January, that a 12-member Guyanese fishing crew was detained by Venezuelan troops though they were fishing off the cpost of the Waini Point which is located in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Those men were eventually released after the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and a number of countries in the wider international community condemned Venezuela’s actions.
It is important to note that this action was part of a string of acts of aggression by Venezuela though Guyana is seeking a final, legal and binding ruling from the ICJ, nullifying Venezuela’s claim of Guyana’s Essequibo region.