Commitment to peace secured as talks with Maduro continue – Pres. Ali
By Kurt Campbell in St Vincent
After more than six hours and three rounds of meetings, the high-level dialogue between Presidents Irfaan Ali and Nicolas Maduro continues at the Argyle International Airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the first two rounds of talks, the presidents engaged separately with CARICOM Heads and representatives from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Brazil and United Nations observers.
And then, in a third round, they met face to face, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
After their first session, President Ali emerged to brief the media and returned to the dialogue table.
President Ali said both sides have agreed and committed that peace in the region is priority.
“I want to say that we agreed with all the regional partners that the priority is peace and that every threat of force, or the use of force, must be denounced.
“And that every party must take responsibility.
“We made it very clear that Guyana is not the aggressor. Guyana is not seeking war but Guyana reserves the right to work with all our partners for the defence of our country,” Dr. Ali said during the break away press briefing.
He said both parties, Guyana and Venezuela, committed to ensuring the region remains a zone of peace.
“I made it clear that the process leading to the ICJ (International Court of Justice) is part of the Geneva agreement and that the Geneva agreement provides for the UN Secretary General to determine where the controversy must be finally determined and it was the UN Secretary General, acting within the confines of the Geneva agreement, who determined that that place is the ICJ,” Dr. Ali also reminded.
The Guyanese Head of State said he made it clear in the talks that Guyana has a right to exercise its sovereign right over it territory – the resource-rich Essequibo region which Venezuela claims.
He said Guyana will continue to facilitate investments, partnerships, trade, collaboration, cooperation and the issuing of any licences, along with the granting of any concessions in its territory.
Venezuela continues to assert claims over Guyana’s Essequibo region, a resource rich region of gold and diamonds and massive oilfields offshore. The International Court of Justice recently ruled that Guyana has governed and exercised sovereignty over the Essequibo Region since 1899 when an arbitration tribunal demarcated the land boundary between the two countries, and Venezuela should refrain from seeking to change that.
But Maduro pressed ahead with a referendum and then installed a governor he said would administer the affairs of Essequibo and issue ID cards to citizens and also grant licences for Venezuelan companies to work in Guyana.
Guyana and the international community have condemned the actions of the Venezuelan President and the high-level talks were called to seek a de-escalation of the conflict.
Guyana is working with key international allies, including the US and Brazil, to shore ups its defence capability given the threat by Venezuela.
President Ali said his talks with Maduro would focus on the fact that the 1899 award is what defined the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela and he would be uncompromising in that position.