Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo said his administration had explored the possibility of giving Venezuela access to a part of the Atlantic Sea offshore Guyana without giving up any of the land territory as part of deal to settle the decades-old border controversy.
“There were other options that involved a negotiated settlement which did not see any land concession, that the 1899 Award would remain intact, that there was one view that you could probably on the maritime area give Venezuela a channel out to sea so you make a slight concession on the maritime area but make sure that you do not concede any territory that is land-based because the maritime boundaries still are yet to be determined,” he told a news conference.
He said bilateral negotiations and a juridical settlement were among five options that were being explored by his administration to settle the border controversy with Venezuela.
The former Guyanese leader expressed concern about the likelihood of Guyana losing the involvement of the United Nations (UN) in the territorial controversy. “My big concern is to keep the United Nations involved even if you go the juridical route. I am not questioning the juridical route. I am saying we need to keep the United Nations at all cost,” he said.
Another area of concern, Jagdeo said, was whether Guyana could go the juridical route without unilaterally or Venezuela. The coalition government has been pushing for the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award to be taken to the International Court of Justice because the 25-year old United Nations Secretary General’s Good Officer Process has been fruitless.
The PPP administration, months before losing the May 2015 general elections, had also said the Good Officer Process had not resolved the controversy and that the time had come to explore other options including a juridical settlement.
The border spat flared earlier this year days after American oil magnate, Exxon-Mobil, had announced the discovery of a significant oil deposit offshore Essequibo in a concession granted by Guyana.
The Opposition Leader urged President David Granger to operationalise a bipartisan Border Committee to facilitate the exchange of views on territorial matters. Jagdeo brushed aside suggestions that he should reach out to the President first to make his concerns known. “I am not sure that I should initiate something that is primarily in the domain of the government although I believe strongly in solidarity,” he said, suggestig that it was government’s responsibility to set up the border committee.
Guyana has outstanding border claims by Venezuela and Suriname that date back to colonial times.