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Border spat should trigger maritime boundary delimitation talks- Fmr. FM Jackson

Former Foreign Minister of Guyana, Rashleigh Jackson on Sunday hoped that the latest border spat with Venezuela would pave the way for urgent negotiations to delimit the maritime boundary between the two neighbouring South American nations.

“We should do that as a matter of urgency and then you wouldn’t get a recurrence of this kind of incident and there wouldn’t be an incentive to have provocative actions anywhere else,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Guyana and Venezuela in 2011 agreed to open talks on delimiting the maritime boundary. At the same time, Venezuela ahd recalled its legitimate right to sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Atlantic Front.

Jackson said that although Venezuela was not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the two countries could negotiate a settlement.

“Two sovereign States could always do that so the fact that Venezuela is not a signatory or a party to the Convention means it’s not bound by those terms but that doesn’t mean that the two States can’t agree to delimit the boundary using established legal principles,” he said.

Guyana, he noted, abides by the principle of equidistance, a norm in international law that states that a nation’s maritime boundary should conform to a median line from the shores of neighbouring nation-states

While the Guyana government has pointed fingers at the Venezuela Navy for last Thursday’s arrest of the seismic research vessel, Teknik Perdana, Jackson said the Nicolas Maduro administration and the Venezuelan military could not be separated.

Both countries have insisted that the vessel was in each other’s territorial waters in the Roraima Block and have asked for explanations.

Jackson did not believe that the presence of several nationalities aboard the vessel that has been contracted by the American oil exploration firm, Anadarko Petroleum provided any real leverage.

Aboard RV Teknik Perdana are five Ukrainians, five Americans, two Britons, five Malaysians, 14 Indonesians, two Russians, one French and two Brazilians. The vessel, under Venezuelan navy escort, was Sunday morning expected to dock at Margarita Island, even as the Foreign Ministers of Venezuela and Guyana prepared to meet in a third country later this week. “I don’t think we should look for factors that would encourage a peaceful settlement; a peaceful settlement is required by international law and the two countries have agreed to look for a peaceful settlement so I don’t think the fact that there are different nationalities working on the ship should be necessarily used,” he said.

Jackson hoped that the main planks of the talks would be to resolve the issue peacefully and for the vessel to be released and allowed to continue its work unimpeded in Guyanese waters. “I hope one of the agreements is that the ship is returned and that the oil company is allowed to do its work and that the two sides agree to commence their discussions which they had agreed a long time ago to delimit the maritime boundary,” he said.

While then President Hugo Chavez, a former soldier, and his successor Nicolas Maduro have played down the border controversy over the Essequibo Region and labelled it as a relic of European colonization and imperialism, Jackson noted that no Venezuelan President has scrapped his country’s claim to the territory. “Since Venezuela raised the matter in 1962, no Venezuela President has renounced the claim so whether it’s colonial or not is irrelevant,” he said.

The United Nation Secretary General, through his Good Officer, has been trying to find a peaceful settlement to the land border controversy. Guyana maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is final and binding on both countries.

Despite the Guyana- Venezuela border controversy, the two sides have been enjoying very good relations.