Ukraine crisis not influencing CARICOM discussions on border controversies – Dr. Barnett

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The Ukraine crisis has engaged the attention of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and its member states but Secretary- General Dr. Carla Barnett says that the ongoing conflict is not influencing the bloc’s discussions on the Guyana/ Venezuela and the Belize/ Guatemala border controversies.

During a press conference on Monday, ahead of the Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of Government of CARICOM, Dr. Barnett was asked whether the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia raised any concerns in the region- particularly since Venezuela has been claiming a huge part of Guyana.

Dr. Barnett pointed out that there are two border controversies in the region: the Guyana/ Venezuela controversy and the Belize/ Guatemala. And with Guyana and Belize both members of CARICOM, the regional bloc has supported the peaceful resolution of these controversies.

“Those are the issues which make the region stand strong on the matter of self-determination and territorial integrity and that will not change,” the Secretary- General emphasised on Monday.

She added, “That has nothing to do with the position on Ukraine in terms of influencing the discussion on any of those issues.”

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Dr. Carla Barnett (Photo: CARICOM)

Last Thursday, when Russia invaded Ukraine, CARICOM issued a strong condemnation of the hostilities, objecting to the threats posed to sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state.

Though she acknowledged that the Ukraine crisis may reflect some similarities with the two Caribbean border controversies, Dr. Barnett emphasised that Ukraine’s crisis “is not a context” that will guide the discussions on the border controversies.

There are several factors that contributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; some analysts think that the annexation of Crimea by Russia may have led to the buildup of tensions. Crimea, though once part of Ukraine, has now been taken by Russia.

Even so, Dr. Barnett said that the Caribbean’s border controversies are discussed at every meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government.

Guyana has taken its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after prior engagements with Venezuela failed. Guyana is asking the ICJ to pronounce on the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award which determined the boundaries between the two countries.

A December 2020 judgement handed down by the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana/Venezuela controversy case. Guyana is expected to submit its memorial next month with Venezuela expected to submit a counter- memorial in 2023.

Venezuela has, however, refused to participate in the proceedings. And, it is maintaining a claim to 70 per cent of Guyana’s territory, arguing that the 1899 agreement, which determined the boundaries between the two countries, is null and void.

Meanwhile, Belize and Guatemala have voted in separate referendums to ask the ICJ to resolve the issue

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