South American body supports Guyana’s call for int’l law to resolve disputes

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A South American body- PROSUR- has supported a call made by Guyana’s Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips to allow the framework of international law to resolve disputes, particularly those that relate to the country’s territorial integrity.

The Prime Minister’s call was made at the Third Regular Summit of the Heads of State of the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America (PROSUR) held on Thursday in Cartagena, Colombia.

“The framework of international law, including the principles of peaceful settlement and of respect for territorial integrity, should guide us in the resolution of any disputes in the region,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying in a release from his office.

PROSUR- which includes host country Colombia, Guyana, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador with Suriname and Bolivia as observers- supported the call, according to the release.

As such, the call for the framework of international law to be the guide within South America was adopted into the final communiqué of Thursday’s meeting.

PROSUR’s support of this call is particularly noteworthy as Guyana is currently engaging the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Venezuela’s claims to the Essequibo region.

The meeting of PROSUR member states in Columbia (Guillermo Lasso photo)

In December 2020, the ICJ ruled that it has the jurisdiction to hear the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy case but Venezuela has abstained from those court proceedings.

Venezuela is maintaining a claim to some 70 per cent of Guyana’s land – the Essequibo region – including Guyana’s offshore oil reserves, arguing that the 1899 agreement, which determined the boundaries between the two countries is null and void.

In a 1966 Agreement signed in Geneva, Venezuela consented to allow the UN Secretary-General to decide on the means of settlement of this controversy. After other engagements failed, the Secretary-General decided on the International Court of Justice.

After other engagements failed, Guyana approached the ICJ to seek a final, binding judgement on the 1899 Arbitral Award that determines the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela. Simply, Guyana is trying to get a final judgement that the Essequibo region does indeed belong to Guyana and not Venezuela.

Last year, President Dr. Irfaan Ali complained to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that Venezuela’s government and opposition where the two parties renewed their “baseless claim” to Guyana’s land and rejected the ruling of the ICJ that it has the authority to rule on the case.

In March, Guyana is expected to submit its memorial case to the ICJ and Venezuela is expected to provide its submissions by the following year.

Meanwhile, at the PROSUR forum, Prime Minister Phillips also lauded the member states for their values.

“Within PROSUR, ours is a strong foundation of shared values – a commitment to democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“We are also at one in our commitment to the maintenance of this region as a zone of peace, anchored in respect for international law and the United Nations Charter, and to the promotion of sustainable development,” he noted.

And he said that these values are important as Guyana remains committed to major projects aimed at enhancing connectivity – both physical and digital – between the countries.

The release also noted that the Prime Minister highlighted that Guyana will look to accelerate its development in an environmentally sustainable way with the aim of promoting peace and prosperity for its people.

He reportedly said that high on the Government’s agenda is the prioritisation of large investments in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, energy security (based on clean and renewable sources), and food security.

“We are committed to improving social safety nets, enhancing public service delivery and promoting economic reform with the view to stimulate sustainable growth and expand opportunities for our people”.

He said too that Guyana will also continue to operate within the context of environmental security.

“We must be guided by the lessons of experience, and pay due regard to the environment. In that context, Guyana has adopted a Low Carbon Development Strategy, aimed at transforming our ability to better deliver socio-economic benefits to our peoples in a manner that is environmentally sustainable”.

Along with Prime Minister Phillips, Foreign Secretary Mr. Robert Persaud and Ambassador George Talbot, Director, Department of the Americas, also travelled for the summit.

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