As part of his inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, President Dr. Irfaan Ali highlighted the continued “overt threats” made by Venezuelan authorities as part of their “baseless claim” to Guyana’s Essequibo region.
President Ali’s expansive address at the UNGA was underpinned by his calls for world leaders to come together and meaningfully tackle global injustice and inequalities. Importantly, he said that Guyana looks forward to the post-pandemic future where international relations would be reset by “curbing territorial avarice and embracing peaceful cooperation”.
In that vein, he highlighted that there have been “continued overt threats” to Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by Venezuela. He apprised the leaders of the recent agreement between Venezuela’s government and opposition where the two parties renewed their “baseless claim” to Guyana’s land and rejected the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it has the authority to rule on the case.
“… Guyana cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for the settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences,” the President said.
As was mentioned in a statement from Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the President said that Guyana welcomes efforts to bring about domestic harmony within Venezuela. However, he emphasised that agreements that defy international law and processes can be no basis for mediating such harmony.
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 judgment that the Essequibo region does indeed belong to Guyana and not Venezuela.
And, President Ali emphasised, “Both Parties are therefore bound by the Court’s jurisdiction and ultimate decision.”
He also said that Guyana does not promote the use of violence or threats to settle disputes.
Contrastingly, 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 coast 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.