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Caricom leaders call on Venezuela to erase sections of decree on maritime boundary

Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) ended their two-day summit in Barbados on Saturday, calling on Venezuela to scrap sections of a Decree that takes in the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of several member-states of the regional grouping.

Heads of Government therefore call upon the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, to withdraw those elements of Decree 1787 insofar as they apply to the territory and maritime space of CARICOM States,” the regional leaders said in a statement.

The issue was brought to the attention of fellow Caricom leaders by Guyana’s President David Granger whose country is the worst affected by Decree 1787 issued by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

The Decree empowers the Venezuelan Navy to patrol the waters off Guyana’s Essequibo Coast  as well as the Atlantic as far as Suriname and French Guiana. Guyana has argued that the Decree issued on May 27, 2015 also takes in much of the EEZ and Continental Shelf of several other Caribbean states including Barbados, Grenads, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago as well as several other Eastern Caribbean states.

Following the conclusion of the 36th Regional meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the statement below was issued with respect to Decree 1787 of Venezuela.

“CARICOM Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the longstanding, deep and wide-ranging friendship between CARICOM and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

They recalled the numerous agreements in the area of trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people contacts which bind the Governments and peoples of CARICOM and Venezuela together. They discussed in detail Decree No: 1.787 of 26 May 2015 issued by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Heads noted in particular the negative implications which the Decree has for the peace, security and development of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

They recalled that just under a year ago on 8th September 2014, the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in his capacity as Chairman of Conference, had written to His Excellency Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, encouraging Venezuela to redouble its efforts at an early delimitation of the maritime boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.  Prime Minister Browne had also encouraged Venezuela to assist in the finding of an early solution to the controversy that has emerged from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 3rd October 1899 that established the boundary with Guyana, is null and void. In that context, Heads of Government reaffirmed the inviolability of international treaties, agreements, awards and legal instruments and made particular reference to those international legally binding instruments that establish international boundaries.

Heads of Government further noted the negative implications of the decree for several other CARICOM countries. Heads of Government called for adherence to accepted principles of international law in relation to the delineation and delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf in the region. CARICOM states do not accept any unilateral proclamation which is inconsistent with international law. They emphasized that CARICOM states have legitimate territorial and maritime entitlements that conform to international law and that must be respected.

As a result of these concerns, and in an effort to have the rights and entitlements of the affected Community Member States fully respected, a delegation of Heads met with the Vice President  and Foreign Minister of Venezuela to express the Community’s grave concern about  Decree 1787.

Heads of Government therefore call upon the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, to withdraw those elements of Decree 1787 insofar as they apply to the territory and maritime space of CARICOM States.”