United States shifts position on Guyana-Venezuela border controversy

Last Updated on Saturday, 17 November 2018, 6:42 by Denis Chabrol

United States Ambassador, Perry Holloway addressing a farewell reception he hosted at his residence.

The United States (US) on Friday confirmed that it has shifted its official position on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy by asking that a more than 100-year old award of the land boundaries between the two neighbouring South American countries be respected.

Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Guyana, Terry Steers-Gonzalez  said American Ambassador, Perry Holloway played a major role in changing the tone of the US’ position on the border controversy. “Previously, we had simply supported the timely resolution of the Venezuela-Guyana border controversy. In large measure because of Ambassador Holloway, the US government now calls on all parties to respect the 1899 arbitration decision,”  Steers-Gonzalez  told a farewell reception for the American envoy.

The Deputy Chief Mission indicated that the change in the US’ narrative was significant. “While some might discount this seemingly simple addition, most of us present tonight understand how truly big it was, and is, Well done Sir!,” Steers-Gonzalez added.

Then US President, Barack Obama had nominated Holloway in July, 2014 to be the next American Ambassador. Following his approval by the Senate in August, 2015 , he arrived in Guyana the following month. By May, 2015 US oil giant, ExxonMobil, announced a major oil find in the offshore Stabroek Block.

Steers-Gonzalez  said it was while Holloway had been waiting in Washington for confirmation by the US Senate that a decision was taken to shift from “support the timely resolution” to calling on the two countries to “respect” the boundary award.

Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman had frequently said the award of the Stabroek Block offshore concession to ExxonMobil was part of his country’s counter-strategy against Venezuela’s border claim.

Th United Nations Secretary General in early 2018 handed the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to determine whether the award was full final and perfect. Guyana and Venezuela have since been given deadlines by the ICJ to file certain supporting documents. So far, Venezuela has chosen not to participate in the process.

Acting Prime Minister, Carl Greenidge said the US’ position “is an extremely important statement, an extremely strong statement; one that we mention most heartily.” “The fact that the US is, at this time, prompted to call in both the parties that were signatories to the Paris Agreement of 1899 is of great significance. It is of special significance to Guyana because all that Guyana wants is the respect of a treaty that the two parties signed and which for all of sixty-three years both parties embraced,” said Greenidge who is also Foreign Affair Minister. He reminded that the US played a critical role in the 1897 treaty which spawned the 1899 arbitration award.

On the occasion of Guyana’s Independence anniversary on May 26, 2018; the first official sign of the US’ new definitive stance on the border controversy had been made known by the State Department. “We wish the people of Guyana, from the Corentyne to the Pakaraimas, from the Takutu to the Amakura, and across the entire “Land of Many Waters,” a happy Independence Day celebration with peace and prosperity throughout the year to come,” the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary of State had said.

Venezuela claims all of the Essequibo Region and its waters offshore.