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Guyana favours UN Good Officer Process; open-minded on options to settling border controversy with Venezuela

President David Granger says Guyana will be reviewing the United Nations (UN) Good Officer Process rather, even as the former British colony mulls other options to deal with the border controversy with neighbouring Venezuela.

“I have to examine the validity of the Good Officer Process. It has been able to keep a lid on the matter from the time of President Hoyte and I am not going to throw it through the window without replacing it with an effective mechanism for resolving the matter,”

Prior to the May 11, 2015 general election, the previous administration had announced its intention to explore a judicial settlement of the border controversy because the Good Officer Process has not resolved Venezuela’s claim to the mineral and forest rich Essequibo Region.

But the newly-elected Guyanese leader said his administration was not about to dump that mechanism that has been prescribed in the Geneva Agreement.

“It didn’t fall from the sky. I can’t throw it away like that so I don’t know what the previous administration was talking about,” he has told Demerara Waves Online News.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Vice President Carl Greenidge reasoned that the Good Officer Process was not a constraint to using other options aimed at reaching a permanent and lasting resolution to the controversy.

Asked whether he believed that Guyana should take the controversy to an international judicial body, Greenidge said much depended on Venezuela’s actions. “If we found that our neighbour was taking actions that led to a deterioration of the situation, we would have to look at another option.

“From what I have read in the newspapers and from some of the actions that had been taken in recent times this has clearly to be a matter of concern and, therefore I think, you can take it that we will be exploring actively other options,” Greenidge has told Demerara Waves Online News. The Guyanese Foreign Minister and his Venezuelan counterpart are expected to hold talks very soon.

At the same time, he said the UN Good Officer- who is appointed by the United Nations Secretary General after agreement by Guyana and Venezuela- should continue to be in place until the two neighbouring South American countries find a mutually agreeable mechanism to arrive at a solution. “It is very critical, very important that you don’t simply abandon a facilitator… that is something that will facilitate dialogue between the two sides so there are other things that have to be done,” said Greenidge.

Since the death of Professor Norman Girvan in April 2014, no Good Officer has been appointed t replace him.

The Good Officer Process was initiated in 1989 following the expiration of the Protocol of Port of Spain in 1982. That Protocol had provided an initial period of 12 years during which Venezuela had undertook not to assert any claim to sovereignty over the Essequibo Region and for Guyana to assert no claim to Venezuelan territory.

Back in October 2013, a Malaysian-owned seismic research vessel was detained by Venezuela’ Navy while operating in an offshore concession that was granted to a US oil company, Andarko Petroleum Corporation.

About two months ago, the Venezuelan government wrote twice to the local subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil warning against the exploration of oil in another offshore concession. The company did not respond, but the then Guyana government had done so to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister and also internationalized the issue.

Guyana has consistently maintained that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award represented a full and final settlement of the land boundary with Venezuela.

The border issue was reopened in 1949 when an American jurist presented to Venezuela a memorandum written in 1944 by the Official Secretary of the U.S./Venezuela delegation in the Tribunal of Arbitration, Severo Mallet-Prevost that surmised a political deal between Russia and Britain based on the private behaviour of the judges.