A month after Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the foreign ministers of both countries met in Brazil on Thursday to set up another round of talks between the two Presidents.
Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd, his Venezuelan counterpart, Yván Gil and the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Mauro Vieira all met in Brasilia for a discussion premised on maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Following the end of the talks, both sides agreed to continue such engagements, particularly on common issues like crime and climate change, and the two Presidents will meet soon.
“For Guyana and Venezuela, there is continuity in our efforts and that is why I have asked my dear colleague and friend (Minister Gil) for us to start working on the next meeting on building on what we have already started,” Minister Todd said at a press briefing in Brasilia.
Tackling transnational organised crime, boosting economic cooperation, pursuing solutions for climate change and Venezuela’s migrant crisis are shared areas Minister Todd the two countries can tackle together.
“We’re going back to headquarters Georgetown to continue working on advancing neighbourly relations to the west with support from our neighbour to the south, Brazil,” Minister Todd added.
Notably, Minister Todd clarified that the two countries are seeking to advance cooperation although the Guyana/ Venezuela border controversy is squarely before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). He reaffirmed that the border, and Guyana’s case before the ICJ, was not and is not up for discussion.
“We are cognisant of the fact that we have a matter that is unresolved but is properly before the ICJ,” he said, later adding, “… even though the court will pronounce, we still have to work together.”
Why this meeting?
Venezuela held a December 3 referendum that many feared would be used to greenlight a potential seizure of two-thirds of Guyana’s territory- the entire Essequibo region- that the Spanish-speaking nation has claimed for decades.
Subsequently, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued a redrawn Venezuelan map that includes Guyana’s territory, told investors to leave and planned activities in the Essequibo region.
Amid rising tensions, several regional bodies and states stepped in and a meeting between Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Mr. Maduro was brokered in December in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Following their meeting, there was an 11-point declaration which includes a commitment from both sides to “refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict.” That declaration catered for a subsequent meeting of the Heads of Government in Brazil; technical meetings, like Thursday’s meeting between Todd and Gil, were necessary too.
Guyana has maintained that the territory is its own after an 1899 Arbitral Award determined the boundary between the two countries as is internationally-recognised. Because of Venezuelan aggressions and decades of failed talks, Guyana eventually took the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where the case is ongoing. Guyana hopes for a final, binding judgement that affirms that the Essequibo is its own.