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Granger hopeful of Vatican’s support in Guyana-border controversy

FLASH BACK: President David Granger in talks with Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, Ambassador of the Apostolic Nuncio in July, 2015.

As President, David Granger prepares for a key meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in New York on the border controversy, Guyana has not ruled out asking the Vatican to play a peace-maker role if tensions escalate.

“I am very confident that were we to call on the good offices of the Vatican, they would be prepared to do everything necessary to make a contribution to peace,” he said

Granger recalled that during his meeting with the Papal Nuncio in Georgetown and that the Vatican envoy was aware of the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award and by extension  Venezuela’s claim of the Essequibo Region. “He is fully aware of the nature of the controversy,” he said.

Pope Francis was credited with playing a major role in the restoration of diplomatic relations and the easing of the United States’ embargo on Cuba for the first time in about 50 years.

For the time being, Granger told reporters in New York that he is relying on the UN and the Commonwealth as part of its diplomatic strategy to rally international support against escalated tensions between the South American nations.

Emerging from talks Thursday with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Guyanese leader said he was looking forward to India playing a major role in the Commonwealth to garner even further international backing.  “We look to India particularly as a string member of the commonwealth to give us support and to lead the debate to ensure that the security of small states is guaranteed,” he said.

The President of Guyana , fed up with the UN Good Officer mediation process, said his country was pushing for the UN Secretary General to send the controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and so there was no need for any bilateral talks with President Maduro. “I have given the Secretary General my commitment that should set up a meeting with Mr. Maduro I will speak with him. I am not seeking a meeting with Mr. Maduro but this is done under the auspices of the United Nations,” said Granger.

He reiterated that Venezuela’s deployment of troops, missiles and tanks in Venezuela near the Guyana border with Guyana and the placement of armed boats in the Cuyuni River was provocative rather than helpful to peace. “We feel at this time that it has been as dangerous as it has ever been before …that for the first time in the life of the controversy we have had  not only the deployment of  Venezuela gunboats in Guyanese waters,” said Granger, a retired Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Ahead of the possible referral of the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Guyana is currently preparing to recruit its legal team. “We are doing preparation work in that regard. We have to put together a team of accomplished lawyers,” he said.