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Guyana happy with Caricom’s solidarity on Venezuela’s widening territorial claim

Guyana’s President, David Granger Saturday night appeared satisfied with solidarity his country has received from sister Caribbean Community (Caricom) member-states against increasing territorial aggression by Venezuela.

The Guyanese leader said he would assure his country that Caricom was desirous of continuing  cordial relations with Venezuela while ensuring that “it will do anything possible to ensure that nothing happens t disrupt peace in the region.”

“Caricom is united, is solidly behind ensuring that there is no disruption to the peace and stability of the region, that it is in support of the sovereignty of the states of the region,” he told a news conference in Barbados where the annual summit was held from July 2 to 4, 2015.

Caricom Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stated unequivocally that the regional grouping was standing firmly with Guyana on the border controversy. “We do not think that there can be any compromise so far as Guyana’s territorial borders are concerned . That is not a matter for Caricom to decide . The issue is part of a process at the  moment and that process has to work itself out,” he said.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who was in Barbados for the Caricom summit, has promised to explore sending an envoy to Guyana and Venezuela to discuss the issue. Guyana wants the UN Chief to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a judicial settlement to reaffirm that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is full, perfect and final settlement of the border with Venezuela.

It was not immediately clear whether Guyana secured a ‘strong’ statement on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy that escalated into a war of words between the neighbouring South American countries after President Nicolas Maduro issued a Decree on May 27, 2015 unilaterally extending his maritime boundary to take in all of the Atlantic Coastal waters off the Essequibo which his country continues to lay claim over. “I think the Guyanese people could be satisfied in the solidarity of the Caribbean Community,” said Granger.

The Caricom Chairman noted that Guyana is an original signatory to the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) and its successor, Caricom, and so the region had no choice but to stick with one of its founding members. “Caricom stands firmly behind Guyana,” he said.

At the same time, the Barbados Prime Minister said Caricom would seek to preserve existing  good relations with Venezuela. “Caricom also has a  good relationship with Venezuela and we are not about to try to disrupt that relationship or to pollute it any way by anything that we as a community say or do,” said Stuart.

Following talks with Venezuela’s Vice President, and Foreign Minister who flew into Barbados for meetings on the margins of the Caricom Summit,  Stuart said there was no evidence that Venezuela did not want to play by the rules. “Venezuela has committed itself to maintaining peace and tranquility in this region.

“We don’t expect that by the snap of any finger that all this will disappear… What we have to ensure that the situation does not spin out of control and that level heads are kept on both s ides and that is the role that Caricom intends to play without any compromise of principle,” added the Caricom Chairman.

The President of Guyana described Decree 1787 as “the fly in the ointment” that has brought Guyana to the point of calling on Venezuela to correct those parts that impact negatively on the Exclusive Economic Zones and the Continental Shelf of Caricom states.

Against the backdrop of the wider implication that Decree has for several Caricom states; Barbados  Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada have agreed to actively address that matter. St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves told the news conference that the region needed to avoid an escalation of conflict or “active disruption in violence.” “We have to approach international relations with great maturity. It is not because that you have a dispute over a piece of land as a neighbor that you must not speak to your neighbour,” he said.

Gonsalves acknowledged that six Caricom member states  are members of Venezuela’s development initiative, ALBA, and many others including Guyana are beneficiaries of the concessionary oil arrangement called PetroCaribe.

Venezuela extended its maritime boundary less than one month after the American oil giant, ExxonMobil, announced that it found a “significant” deposit of high quality crude oil offshore Guyana.