Venezuela asks CARICOM to broker talks with Guyana on Essequibo claim

Last Updated on Friday, 27 October 2023, 6:42 by Denis Chabrol

Venezuela has urged the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to arrange talks with Guyana on settling the territorial controversy over the Essequibo Region peacefully outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“The position of the Caribbean Community must be to promote and facilitate a direct dialogue between the parties, which will return Guyana to the path of respect for Public International Law, by promoting a peaceful and diplomatic route to address the territorial
controversy,” the Venezuelan government said in reaction to CARICOM’s statement earlier this week.

President Irfaan Ali has already dismissed calls by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to hold talks but the Guyanese leader said he would be relying on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which Guyana has asked to settle the controversy over the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award of the land boundary between the two countries.

While CARICOM and the international community have been stressing that the ICJ’s final decision would ensure a resolution that is peaceful, equitable and in accordance with international law, Venezuela on Thursday reiterated that it had no faith in the World Court. “Venezuela’s historical position for several decades has been that the International Court of Justice will never reach an equitable solution, as contemplated in the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which makes it the only valid instrument to achieve a solution,” according to a Google translated version of Venezuela’s statement.

CARICOM’s warning that one of the questions of the December 3 referendum would amount to the takeover of Guyana’s Essequibo County in clear violation of international law did not elicit a specific response from Venezuela. At the same time, Venezuela said it was holding the “popular consultation on this matter, within the framework of its constitutional powers.”

Concerning its specific claim to the Essequibo County, Venezuela said that dating back to Guyana’s independence in 1966 it had always maintained that it only recognises Guyana from the eastern bank of the Essequibo River.

Venezuela restated its accusation that Guyana has violated the 1966 Geneva Agreement that Guyana by engaging in commercial activities in the territorial sea contiguous to the Essequibo County though the maritime boundary has not yet been delimited, “a practice that without place undoubtedly constitutes a violation of international law.”

In the coming days, Guyana’s National Assembly or Parliament is expected to unanimously approve a motion against Venezuela’s intensified aggression. Government and the opposition here this week also agreed to embark on a public education and awareness programme about Guyana’s ownership of Essequibo.

President Ali and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton earlier this week noted that between 1900 and 1905, Venezuela participated in a joint demarcation of the boundary, in strict adherence to the letter of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and emphatically refused to countenance even minor technical modifications of the boundary line described in the Award. Venezuela proceeded to formally ratify the demarcated boundary in its domestic law and thereafter published official maps, which depicted the boundary following the line described in the 1899 Award.

In July 1931, Venezuela concluded a boundary agreement with Brazil that expressly confirmed the tri-junction point of the boundaries of British Guiana, Venezuela and Brazil as described in the 1899 Award. For more than sixty years, Venezuela gave full effect to that Award, and never raised a concern as to its validity and binding legal effects.