In a statement to the National Assembly on the issue, Greenidge said the only alternative that Guyana has at its disposal is a “juridical” settlement that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award of the border with Venezuela is final.
“Notwithstanding the fact that an international boundary settlement already exists in the form of the Arbitral Award of 1899, a juridical settlement in respect of Venezuela’s contention that this award is null and void appears to be the best if not the only way now open to us,” he told the House on the first day of its sitting following last month’s general elections.
Greenidge later told Demerara Waves Online News that the Guyana government has already approached the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to go the route of a legal settlement because the United Nations Good Office Process has “unhappily, it has signally failed to resolve the issue.”
In the interim, the Foreign Minister told the House that Guyana has ratcheted up its diplomatic offensive to the international community including special approaches to other Caribbean and Commonwealth member states “from whom we have consistently received support in the past for our just cause.”
Greenidge did not refer to any heightened security but said steps were being taken to protect Guyana’s territory. “Other steps are being taken to ensure that Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are not compromised in any way and that our sovereign right to develop this great country is free from threats and economic aggression remains untrammeled.” He said the Decree has served to widen even further the gap between the neighbouring South American countries. The purported annexation of the waters off Essequibo now takes in the oil-rich Stabroek Block where American oil giant, Exxon Mobil, last month found a “significant” reserve of high quality crude oil.
While Guyana intends to continue holding discussions on bilateral relations with Venezuela, Greenidge said his country would be now directing its “full attention” to legal proceedings to settle the matter peacefully. “A definitive solution that will put to rest Venezuela’s contention of nullity has to be found,” he said.
He stressed that the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Venezuela, Britain and Guyana provides for various mechanisms to resolve the controversy but one of them- the United Nations Secretary General’s Good Officer Process- has not yielded any progress for the past 25 years. He said Guyana would now have to seek relief through one of the options in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter. Those options include arbitration and judicial settlement.
The Foreign Minister said President Nicolas Maduro’s Gazetted Decree 1787 on May 26, 2015 that includes all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Coast now means that Guyana’s must hasten its quest for a final solution. “Venezuela has by its recent decree virtually given notice that it intends to continue increasing the pressure on Guyana and to weaken its resistance to its illegal claim,” he said.
The Foreign Minister noted that Venezuela’s previous acts of aggression have impacted adversely on Guyana’s efforts to exploit its natural resources for its own development.
Greenidge observed that that the Decree purportedly mandates and authorizes the Venezuelan Navy to secure the area and bars anyone from exploiting it without its permission. “This Decree is a baseless and shameless attempt at usurping Guyana’s territory is also intended to deny Guyana her legitimate right to continue the pursuit of existing development initiatives,” he said, in apparent reference to Exxon-Mobil’s oil-find. “It is also intended to impact negatively in other pending and future development initiatives in that portion of Guyana’s legitimate maritime space that falls within the area circumscribed by the Decree,” he added.
Against the background of a pattern of military, paramilitary and economic aggression, he said Venezuela has refused to come to begin agreed negotiations on maritime delimitation.
For decades now, Venezuela has occupied the Guyana side of Ankoko Island , objected to the development of hydro power stations in Essequibo and the exploration of oil offshore and onshore.
Venezuela’s Navy in 2013 intercepted and detained a Malaysian seismic vessel that had been conducting surveys in an offshore concession granted by Guyana to the United States-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.