Venezuela border controversy: Guyana Govt stays committed to peaceful settlement at ICJ

…as Venezuela repeats spurious claims over President Ali’s speech at UNGA

President Dr Irfaan Ali’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) ruffled feathers in Caracas, but according to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry, the Government remains committed to this path of peaceful settlement of its border controversy with Venezuela.

President Dr Irfaan Ali during his UNGA speech

While in New York last month for the UNGA, President Ali in his address to those gathered at the 6th plenary session had made reference to the border controversy with Venezuela. At the time, President Ali quoted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, when he said that they were “committed to make the most of every diplomatic tool for the pacific settlement of disputes, as set out in the Charter of the United Nations”.
Those tools include negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement – relevant tools in the matter of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – challenged and threatened by Venezuela.
“In this case, ‘judicial settlement’ as determined by the Secretary General himself. The world’s nations can be assured that Guyana shall remain true to those peaceful processes and deny every effort to depart from them. The International Court of Justice has already affirmed its jurisdiction in the matter,” President Ali had informed the General Assembly.
These words seem to have cause some unease in Caracas, Venezuela, however, with the Spanish-speaking republic issuing a statement on September 30 in which they repeated many of their spurious claims regarding the border controversy.
In a communique, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stood behind President Ali’s words. The Ministry also held up the words of the UN Secretary General and pointed out that the judicial settlement route to settle the controversy was determined by the Secretary General himself.
“The world’s nations can be assured that Guyana shall remain true to those peaceful processes and deny every effort to depart from them. The international court of justice has already affirmed its jurisdiction in the matter,” the Ministry said.
Venezuela has laid spurious claims to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which almost 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past seven years.
Guyana approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2018 seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
Guyana moved to the World Court after exhausting all means of negotiation with Venezuela and the failed good offices process between the two South American neighbours. The Spanish-speaking nation had initially refused to participate in the proceedings and had even challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter. But in December 2020, the ICJ established that it has jurisdiction to hear the substantive case – something which Venezuela did not accept.
Back in March of this year, Guyana had submitted its written arguments for its memorial to the ICJ, which was a requirement by the court following its December 18, 2020, decision that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case against Venezuela.
Venezuela has since filed an objection, which, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, is nothing more than a bid to delay the substantial hearing of the 1899 Arbitral award case before the ICJ, after refusing to join the proceedings since 2018.
Various countries and organisations have already thrown their support behind the judicial settlement of the case. In March, the United States (US) had expressed support for Guyana’s territorial border controversy case, and its stance was reiterated during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti, Barbara A Feinstein, and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The Caribbean Community (Caricom), has also reaffirmed support for Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela, urging the Spanish-speaking country to participate in the judicial process before the ICJ.
Support also came in June of this year from the Commonwealth. In a major decision coming out of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda, the Commonwealth Heads all threw their support behind the judicial process.
The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945, and began its activities in April 1946. The Court is composed of 15 Judges, elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. (G3)