Guyana, Venezuela in crucial United Nations-arranged border talks

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 October 2017, 16:28 by Denis Chabrol

FLASH BACK: President David Granger (right in background) meets with United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Personal Representative in the Good Offices Process on the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, Ambassador Dag Havland Nylander

The Foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela are in New York to hold two days of talks that have been organised by the United Nations to discuss the decades-old controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the boundary between the two neigbouring South American countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the talks would be held on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29.

“The meeting has been organized by Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Border Controversy between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Mr. Dag Halvor Nylander, as part of the fulfillment of his mandate under the Good Offices Process, with the strengthened aspect of mediation, to “actively engage with the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela with a view to exploring and proposing options for a solution to the border controversy between the two countries”,” the ministry said.

These talks come as 2017 is nearing end- the time that the United Nations Secretary General had  stated that the controversy would be sent to the International Court of Justice for adjudication.

United Nations Secretary General’s High Representative and President Nicolas Maduro in talks.

Some sources indicate that Guyana has stated that it would be unwilling to agree to an extension of the deadline or for the continuation of the Good Officer/Mediation process.

In 2015, the Guyana requested the United Nations Secretary-General to take steps toward a resolution of the controversy using an option from the menu as stated in the Geneva Agreement of 17 February 1966.

Further, in 2016, as a consequence of a stalemate on the matter, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed with his successor, Mr. António Guterres, to continue to use the Good Offices Process until the end of 2017 as a means of arriving at a settlement.

According to the mandate of the Personal Representative, “If, by the end of 2017, the Secretary-General concludes that no significant progress has been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.”

Dag Halvor Nylander

Since his appointment on 27 February earlier this year, Mr. Nylander has visited Guyana four times where he held talks with President David Granger and Foreign Minister Greenidge, among others. Additionally, in September, the Guyana delegation to the General Debate of the seventy-second session of the United Nations General Assembly met with the Secretary-General as well as Mr. Nylander and held informal discussions with Venezuelan counterparts.

The present Good Offices Process has been conducted since 1990.

Venezuela contends that the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 demarcating the border between Guyana (British Guiana at the time) and Venezuela is null and void. Consequently, it continues to lay claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

Border tensions flared in June , 2015 shortly after ExxonMobil announced the discovery of a huge oil deposit offshore Guyana.

After the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) mounted pressure on Venezuela, that country’s President, Nicolas Maduro eventually amended his unilateral decree of extending Venezuela’s maritime boundary to take in all of the Atlantic Sea offshore Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana as well as several Caribbean island nations.