September 26, 2016

Guyana awaits word from UN SG following fact-finding mission

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge said the Guyana Government was awaiting word from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the way forward on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy.
Last week, the UN sent another fact-finding mission to both Georgetown and Caracas to inform its next move towards bringing an end to the stalemate between the two countries.
Speaking to Guyana Times, Greenidge said while there was no dialogue between Guyana and Venezuela per se, the conversation was taking place through the UN Secretary General.
“And he is speaking to us with a view of choosing finally options for the resolution for the disagreement of the two sides. He sent a team last weekend and that team should have completed its discussion in Venezuela recently,” Greenidge said.
He related that it was now up to the SG to make known what he was going to do and when he was likely to make a decision.
“We are waiting to hear from him, because it is something that is very critical to us, it has implication for Guyana’s standing. We hope that the SG could see a way that would remove Venezuela from blocking our path to economic development,” he said.
In October last year, the UN had sent such a team to both Guyana and Venezuela, where discussions with both Government and Opposition were held.
There is still hope for an end soon to the controversy between the neighbouring countries.
Guyana had committed to taking the judicial route of action last year, after years of committing to the UN Good Offices Process. Government had declared that the process was yielding little or no results. It had even called on Venezuela to join this nation in moving to the courts to pursue a judicial settlement of the controversy.
Greenidge had said that Guyana had never strayed from the path of friendship with Venezuela, adding that bringing the matter to an end by due process of international law, as was proposed by Guyana, would be a gift to future generations in both countries. Venezuela does not accept the 1899 Award, unanimously made by a five-member panel – two Britons, one Russian, and two Americans representing Venezuela – on the border issue as a final settlement despite its agreement to do so, denouncing it almost five decades later in 1945 before the United Nations.
In 1949, the US jurist Otto Schoenrich gave the Venezuelan Government a memorandum written by Severo Mallet-Prevost, the Official Secretary of the US-Venezuela delegation in the Tribunal of Arbitration, which was written in 1944 to be published only after his death. Mallet-Prevost, one of the four lawyers who had appeared for Venezuela before the Arbitral Tribunal, surmised from the private behaviour of the Judges that there had been a political deal between Great Britain and Russia and for the first time, attacked the Award. This memorandum led to Venezuela’s revival of its claim to Guyana’s territory.
In 1966 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Governments of British Guiana, the United Kingdom and Venezuela signed an agreement to resolve Venezuela’s contentions. Since then, the unresolved issue has sporadically flared up.
The controversy reignited in March of last year when the Government of Guyana granted access to the US-based oil company ExxonMobil, allowing it to drill for oil in the Stabroek Block offshore Essequibo.
The Venezuelan Government was peeved at this move and made direct contact with the oil company, urging it to discontinue its attempt to carry out drilling activities in the area. Saying it had no part in the territorial issue, the oil company went ahead with its drilling activity. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro later issued a decree on May 26, 2015, which purports to ratify maritime sovereignty over waters within 200 miles including the entire Atlantic Ocean off the Essequibo Coast as well as part of Suriname’s maritime territory and an area which is under dispute with Colombia.

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