Guyana-Venezuela Border Controversy: Guyana confident ICJ will confirm ‘longstanding int’l boundary’ with Venezuela – Pres Ali

– as APNU/AFC Opposition welcomes Court’s rejection of Ven objections

The Guyana Government is confident that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold the longstanding international boundary with Venezuela now that the path has been cleared for the court to commence the proceedings on the border case between the two countries.
This is according to President Dr Irfaan Ali on Thursday, following the ICJ’s decision to reject Venezuela’s Preliminary Objection on the admissibility of the border case before the court.
In a move that delayed the substantive hearing of the border case, the Spanish-speaking nation in June 2022 filed Preliminary Objections, claiming that the case is improperly before the court. It argued that such a case should not have been brought by Guyana, but by the United Kingdom – the then Great Britain, which had signed the 1899 Arbitral Award with Venezuela to demarcate Guyana’s boundaries. Guyana had been one of Britain’s colonies; it was known as British Guiana at the time.
Both Guyana and Venezuela had presented submissions on this matter before the World Court in November 2022.
On Thursday, the ICJ rejected Venezuela’s objections in a vote of 14 to 1, whereby 14 judges rejected the claim by Venezuela and one judge opted to dissent.
The Guyana Government had previously contended that Venezuela’s objections are a blatant attempt by the Spanish-speaking country to delay the substantive border controversy case.
But in a broadcast address following the World Court’s ruling, President Ali said this decision would now allow the court to proceed to decide the dispute between the two States on its merits, and ultimately issue a final and binding determination on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award that fixed the land boundary between Venezuela and then-British Guiana.
“Guyana remains confident that its longstanding international boundary with Venezuela will be confirmed by the Court,” he posited.
With its objections rejected, Venezuela will now have to submit its written pleadings on the merits of the case – that is, on the validity of the Arbitral Award and the international boundary that it established.
Guyana has already filed its Memorial on the Merits of the Border controversy case in March 2022.
The Guyana Government has persistently reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring a peaceful settlement of this border case with its South American neighbour.
According to the Head of State in his Thursday address, “Guyana has always been fully committed to the peaceful resolution of the dispute with its neighbour and sister Republic, in accordance with international law. That is why, after attempting unsuccessfully to achieve a diplomatic settlement through talks mediated by the United Nations Secretary-General over more than two decades, Guyana brought the matter to the International Court of Justice for a final and binding determination.”
In fact, President Ali reminded that all Member States of the United Nations (UN), including Guyana and Venezuela, are obligated under the United Nations Charter to comply with the Court’s binding judgments.
Venezuela and the United Kingdom recognised the validity of that Arbitral Award and the resulting international boundary for more than 60 years. Upon its independence in 1966, Guyana also recognised the Award and the boundary, but Venezuela had changed its position and begun claiming more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory west of the Essequibo River.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s ruling by the World Court was also welcomed by the parliamentary Opposition – A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).
“The APNU+AFC stands with the Government and people of Guyana in welcoming the decision handed down today, Thursday 6th April 2023, by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). With the Court’s rejection of Venezuela’s preliminary objections, the way has now been cleared for the ICJ to adjudicate on the merits of the case in pursuit of a final and binding judgment on the matter,” the Opposition stated.
It was further outlined in the APNU+AFC missive that the ICL’s decision is further proof of the validity and rightness of Guyana’s position.
“Guyanese will continue to stand united on the issue of defending its territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Opposition declared.
Both President Ali and the APNU+AFC lauded the work of Guyana’s legal team and country agents.
After exhausting all means of negotiation with Venezuela and the failed Good Offices Process between the two South American neighbours, Guyana had moved to the World Court in 2019 for a final and binding ruling on the October 3, 1899 Arbitral Award settling the land boundary between the two countries.
Venezuela had initially refused to participate in the proceedings, and had even challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter. But on December 18, 2020, the ICJ established that it has jurisdiction to hear the substantive case – something which Venezuela did not accept. Hence, its Preliminary Objections in June 2022.
The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass, Essequibo, and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which more than nine billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past six years.
Guyana, among other things, is asking the ICJ to declare that the 1899 Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela, and that Venezuela is internationally responsible for violations of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a consequence. (G-8)