President David Granger on Wednesday said that Guyana welcomed the decision by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to identify a definitive deadline to the Good Offices Process for the resolution of the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.
Declaring that Guyana has worked hard to bring an end to the claim on its sovereign territory, the President said that the country was ready to prove its case in the International Court of Justice at the end of 2017, should the Good Offices Process maintain the current stalemate.
The President, who was at the time addressing officers and ranks of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) at the Annual Christmas Lunch at Base Camp Ayanganna, said that Guyana has already waited too long for a resolution to this matter.
“Last Friday, for the first time in 51 years, the Secretary General has decided that that 51-year-old claim by Venezuela will go to the world court at the end of 2017 if the two countries, Guyana and Venezuela, do not agree to make some other arrangements. Well, we have already decided that we have already waited 51 years too long. It is our territory and we will go to court to prove that it is our territory and you are there to back me up, aren’t you?” the President said to loud cheers and shouts of “yes” from the members of the Force.
He noted that the country has put in significant effort and work to place the border controversy at the top of the international agenda, lobbying the UN Secretary General and gaining support from the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Commonwealth Nations and nation states. He added that it was satisfying that the work of the administration has not been in vain.
“We worked hard for it… I am satisfied that the Secretary General has discharged his responsibility to the Geneva Agreement of 1966. So we are very grateful he has made that decision. We have waited 50 years and we understand that the Secretary General has been very deliberate and very cautious in approaching this matter. International issues cannot be resolved in a sudden or spontaneous fashion and we understand that under the circumstances the Secretary General did what was his duty under the Geneva Agreement,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces said.
The President expressed gratitude to the servicemen for their commitment and dedication during the past year, noting that Guyana would not have been where it was had it not been for the Force.
Meanwhile, Chief-of-Staff of the GDF, Brigadier George Lewis said that the Force has enjoyed an “excellent” year, in which its successes were more than its challenges and, therefore, it looked forward to an even better year in 2017.
The lunch marked the last of a series of lunches, referred to as ‘Soldiers’ Day, held by the GDF in recognition and celebration of its ranks, during the Christmas season. There have been Soldiers’ Day activities at Lethem, Kaikan, Eteringbang, Mabaruma, the GDF Floating Base, New Amsterdam, Camp Stephenson, Camp Seweyo and Camp Jaguar.
With Guyana on the verge of becoming a lucrative oil-producing nation, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree in May last year purporting to claim the majority of Guyana’s waters off Essequibo.
The decree was seen as a flagrant violation of international law and was inconsistent with the principle that all states should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states.
In an effort to defend its sovereignty, Guyana made it clear to the Venezuelan Government that the Essequibo and its offshore waters belong to Guyana, and strengthened its push for judicial settlement of the issue, as the Good Offices Process had yielded little result.
The border between the two countries was settled by an international tribunal in 1899, in an award the parties, including Venezuela, had agreed would be the final settlement. Since the belligerence from Venezuela, moves have been made by the international community, including the UN Secretary General, to push for a peaceful resolution of the issue.
The Guyanese leader and President Maduro had met with the outgoing UN Secretary General for the first time in September last year to discuss the controversy. The meeting was dubbed fruitful as both Heads pledged to mend the bilateral relationship, while attempts are being made to resolve the border controversy.