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UPDATE: Venezuela agrees to restore high-level diplomatic representation; UN fact-finding mission for Caracas

IN A SPIRIT OF PEACE: United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon (centre) secures a handshake between Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (left) and Guyana’s President, David Granger just before formal talks began in New York on the border controversy.

In talks brokered by United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon Venezuela Sunday night agreed to accredit Cheryl Miles as Guyana’s Ambassador to Caracas and return its Ambassador to Georgetown, while the UN continues to explore ways of permanently resolving the border controversy.

“The two Presidents expressed willingness to continue to engage in dialogue, and announced during the meeting that they would receive their respective ambassadors in order to ensure a return to fully fledged diplomatic representation in both capitals in the nearest future,” the UN Secretary General’s office said in a statement.

In the interim, Ambassador Cheryl Miles will soon be accredited and Venezuela will send back its Ambassadorr  Reina Margarita Arratia Diaz to Georgetown.

Participating in the talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York were Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and the President of Guyana, David Granger- their first meeting since the Guyanese leader won general elections in May.

After shaking hands at the request of the UN Chief, the trio met for about one hour during which Guyana pressed its case for the border controversy to be taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a lasting settlement.

However,  the UN Secretary General did not make any decision in that regard during the talks. Instead, according to Granger, the UN Chief preferred to first receive an assessment from a UN team that is expected to visit Venezuela on a fact-finding mission. A similar team has already conducted a visit to Guyana.

“The Secretary-General praised the willingness of Presidents Granger and Maduro to uphold their countries’ tradition of dialogue while a path toward resolution of the controversy is crafted that will be beneficial to both countries and their peoples,” Ban’s office said.

Venezuela maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award which settled the land boundary between the neighbouring countries is null and void while Guyana insists that the award is a final and perfect settlement.

Tensions between Guyana and Venezuela have soared in recent months ever since American oil company, Exxon-Mobil, discovered a huge deposit offshore Essequibo, a mineral and forest ich region that Venezuela claims as hers.

Caracas has since issued a decree, including the waters offshore Essequibo as part of its military defence zone, refused to approve Cheryl Miles as Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela, recalled its Ambassador from Georgetown and deployed men, missiles and gunboats near the border.

Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro more than two months ago recalled his Ambassador Arratia Diaz will return to Georgetown.

Earlier this month, their relations dipped further when Maduro ordered a temporary halt to the processing of approval for  Miles to be accredited Guyana’s Ambassador to Caracas and subsequently deployed troops, missiles, tanks and gunboats near the border with Guyana.

Venezuela has since scaled back its military presence there, ahead of the talks between Granger, Maduro and the UN Chief.