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Guyana willing to hold bilateral talks with Venezuela on other issues if Guyanese boats, crews are first released

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 January 2021, 14:57 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Saturday said Guyana was ready to hold bilateral talks with Venezuela on matters other than the border controversy, but on the condition that the two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and crew members must be released immediately.

“Such discussions while welcomed, especially if the UN Secretary-General wishes to play a good offices role, will have to be preceded by a clear demonstration by Venezuela that it will desist from any further acts of aggression against Guyana, starting with the release of the Guyanese fishermen and their vessels,” the President said.

This position by the Guyana government comes against the background of the Mr. United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres saying that he has reaffirmed his decision on January 30, 2018 to refer the border controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a means to be used to resole the controversy in keeping with the 1966 Geneva agreement.

President Ali said noting that the bilateral relationship between Guyana and Venezuela “is broader than the controversy” should both the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela wish to avail themselves of his good offices role “to address other important issues”, he remains available for that purpose.

Insisting that Guyana is fully committed to the ICJ process to put an end to Venezuelan contention that the 1899 Arbitral  Tribunal Award is null and void.

President Ali said Guyana would be willing to discuss matters of a common interest with Venezuela. Dr. Ali said these would include dealing with the increasing number of Venezuelans now seeking refuge in Guyana as well as how the two countries could collaborate in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic “which has spared neither of our two countries.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd, meanwhile, said his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza has assured him that the human rights of the crew members were not being violated and that they are being held under security at Port Guiria.  Mr. Todd said they were not being held at a detention centre and that would minimise their chances of contracting the coronavirus, COVID-19.

Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Godfrey Bess said the Venezuelan Navy was first spotted in Guyanese waters on January 14, 2021 and “intermittently” approximately 60 nautical miles east if the median line and approximately 25 nautical miles from Guyana’s coast.

Brigadier Bess said the Venezuelan military was last seen in Guyanese waters on January 27, 2021. He said, “we continue to log their operations” inform Guyana’s Foreign Ministry of their operations.

At the same time, he said the GDF was also conducting patrols in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone to ensure that “our presence is felt” in addition to aerial patrols.