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UN Secretary General sends Guyana-Venezuela border controversy to World Court

The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres  has decided to refer the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy to the  International Court of Justice (ICJ) for settlement, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said Guterres “has carefully analysed developments in 2017 in the good offices process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy. Accordingly, the Secretary-General has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.”

Dujarric added that in reaching that decision, the Secretary-General has also reached the conclusion that Guyana and Venezuela could benefit from the continued good offices of the United Nations through a complementary process established on the basis of the powers of the Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations.

“The Secretary-General, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, remains committed to accompany both States as they seek to overcome their differences regarding this border controversy,” the spokeswoman added.

Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Audrey Waddell confirmed that Guyana was told of the UN Chief’s decision, but said she had no immediate details.

Guterres’ decision was taken after his High-Level Personal Representative, Dagg Halvor Nylander failed to resolve the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the boundary between Venezuela and then British Guiana.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “Guyana welcomes the decision of the Secretary General of the United Nations to refer the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Guyana will not allow factors extraneous to the controversy to influence its referral to the Court; but it will continue the advancement of peaceful relations with Venezuela whose people are the brothers and sisters of Guyanese. In this context, Guyana acknowledges the Secretary General’s suggestions for the immediate future,” the Foreign Ministry added.

The controversy resurfaced after a letter by a junior Venezuelan lawyer, Mallet Prevost, had surmised a political deal between Russia and Britain based on the private behaviour of the judges. . “That Guyana has stood firm against Venezuela’s attempt to re-open a territorial boundary settled and recognised for half a century before its independence, and done so despite the manifest unequal strengths between the two countries, is to our national credit. Guyana, as one of the world’s small developing countries, is pleased that its reliance on the rule of law internationally has been the underpinning of its national sovereignty,” the Foreign Ministry, however, stated.

Guyana has already secured US$18 million from ExxonMobil, as a signing bonus, to meet legal fees for the settlement of the controversy at the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki Moon, had committed the UN Secretary General to send the controversy to the ICJ if there was significant progress in resolving Venezuela’s claim to the mineral and forest rich Essequibo Region and the Atlantic sea off that county. The Foreign Ministry said “Guyana has always held the view that the ICJ is the appropriate forum for the peaceful and definitive settlement of the controversy, and is pleased that that view has prevailed under the process developed” by both Ban and Guterres.

In the Geneva Agreement of 1966, Guyana and Venezuela conferred upon the Secretary-General the power and responsibility to choose a means of peaceful settlement from amongst those contemplated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Geneva Agreement also provides that if the means so chosen does not lead to a solution of the controversy, the Secretary-General is to choose another means of settlement.