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Guyana- Venezuela border controversy tops Commonwealth’s agenda

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma.

The 53-nation Commonwealth Saturday reiterated that it was siding with Guyana in its maritime and land border controversy with Venezuela, even as the global organisation prepares to discuss the issue in New York in another three months.

“There have been recent developments including a claim by a neighbouring country over Guyana’s land and maritime areas, and the Commonwealth has moved swiftly and appropriately in collective solidarity with Guyana,” the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said in remarks on arriving in Guyana.

While here, he is expected to meet with Guyanese leaders, the Speaker of the National Assembly and other key stakeholders.   At the end of his three-day visit,  Sharma heads to Barbados for the summit of Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders.

Sharma has since convened the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana which is now scheduled to meet in New York in September, the same venue and month when Commonwealth Foreign Ministers are due to meet to discuss the situation affecting this former British Colony.

The international community is increasingly paying attention to Guyana in recent weeks following Venezuela’s unilateral adjustment of its maritime boundary on May 27, 2015 to take in all of the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Coast.

Tired of Venezuela’s lingering claim that has scared away investors mainly in the offshore oil industry, Guyana has already stated that it would be asking the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to request the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to review the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award and so settle the 60-year old border controversy with its Spanish-speaking neighbour.

The Commonwealth Secretary General said all Commonwealth Foreign Ministers have been kept informed of this development.

“The Commonwealth stands as one and speaks with one voice in our commitment to Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are an association of 53 member states worldwide accounting for one quarter of the United Nations membership. Commonwealth member governments, individually and collectively, are also committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to the rule of law,” said the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, held in Sri Lanka in 2013, the Commonwealth leaders, “…reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and preservation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

 “The Commonwealth remains steadfast in its support for the Government and people of Guyana,” the Secretary-General concluded.