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Guyana wants World Court to rule that Venezuela must withdraw from Ankoko Island; stop scaring investors

The Guyana-Venezuela border at the Cuyuni River. At the top right is San Martin in Venezuela, and the bottom left is Eteringbang in Guyana. (Demerara Waves photo)

Guyana has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule that Venezuela must withdraw from Ankoko Island and stop harassing investors onshore and offshore the Essequibo Region, that United Nations (UN) court said in statement.

In its case filed with The Hague-headquartered ICJ to settle the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal boundary award, Guyana asked the court to adjudge and declare that Venezuela must withdraw from Ankoko Island that it has been occupying for the past 51 years.

“Venezuela shall immediately withdraw from and cease its occupation of the eastern half of the Island of Ankoko, and each and every other territory which is recognized as Guyana’s sovereign territory in accordance with the 1899 Award and 1905 Agreement,” the ICJ said in the news release on Guyana’s application that was filed with that court on March 29.

Venezuelan soldiers have been occupying the eastern half of Ankoko, a three-square-mile island at the junction of the Cuyuni and the Wenamu rivers, since 1966.

As part of Guyana’s core request for the ICJ to find that the Tribunal Award is a “full, perfect, and final settlement” of the boundary that was ““identified, demarcated and permanently fixed” by a joint Anglo-Venezuelan Boundary Commission between November 1900 and June 1904, it also wants the Court to order Venezuela to cease scaring away investors from the Essequibo Region. After that exercise, the United Kingdom, on behalf of then British Guiana, and Venezuela had signed a Joint Declaration in 1905 agreeing to the demarcated boundary.

“Venezuela shall refrain from threatening or using force against any person and/or company licensed by Guyana or engage in economic or commercial activity in Guyanese territory as determined by the 1899 Award and 1905 Agreement, or in any maritime areas appurtenant to such territory over which Guyana has sovereignty or exercises sovereign rights, and shall not interfere with any Guyanese or Guyanese-authorised activities in those areas,” states the ICJ.

If Guyana gets its way, that principal UN judicial organ will also have to adjudge and declare that Venezuela is internationally responsible for violations of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a consequence”.

In the past, Venezuela has objected to the construction and development of the now closed Omai Gold Mines as well as Aurora Gold Mines and ExxonMobil’s offshore exploration and development. In October, 2013 the Venezuelan Navy had also seized a Malaysian-owned seismic research vessel, Teknik Perdana, that had been gathering data at an offshore concession granted to the US oil company, Anadarko Petroleum. Days after ExxonMobil had announced its first huge oil-find offshore Guyana, Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro had unilaterally extended Venezuela’s maritime boundary to take in virtually all of Guyana’s sea space, but only backed off as a result of pressure from the 15-nation Caribbean Community.

The ICJ is also being asked to rule that Guyana enjoys full sovereignty over the territory between the Essequibo River and the boundary established by the 1899 Award and the 1905 Agreement, and Venezuela enjoys full sovereignty over the territory west of that boundary.

Further, the  ICJ is also being asked to rule that the two neighbouring South American nations “are under an obligation to fully respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with the boundary established by the 1899 Award and the 1905 Agreement”.

Guyana, in keeping with the 1966 Geneva Agreement, filed its application to the ICJ, two months after United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres referred the border controversy to that Court for settlement.

Guyana contends that, in 1962, for the first time, Venezuela contested the Award as “arbitrary” and “null and void”. This, according to Guyana, led to the signing of the Geneva Agreement.  which “provided for recourse to a series of dispute settlement mechanisms to finally resolve the controversy”. Guyana submits that the Geneva Agreement authorized the United Nations Secretary-General to decide which appropriate dispute resolution mechanism to adopt for the peaceful settlement of the dispute, in accordance with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter.