Guyana, Venezuela legal battle for Essequibo continues on June 30

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-Court’s decision expected to promote stability, investor confidence in Guyana- Greenidge

Guyana’s quest to bring some finality to the  controversy that exists between Guyana and Venezuela about the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, which delimited the land boundary between our two States is one step closer to being fulfilled.

According to Guyana’ Foreign Secretary, the understanding by Guyanese at home and abroad leaves a great deal to be desired due to the “misrepresentation of the matters by our neighbor and its propaganda efforts” and because of the “domestic political division” in Guyana, which has clouded debate and the complexity that the maritime issue has brought to the matter.

In a press release today, Greenidge reminded that the issue at hand is not the EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone] or the allocation of rights to explore for petroleum.

“The issue in the first instance concerns the standing of a treaty and the obligations of the signatories under international law. It is not about ideology and neo-colonialism as both states voluntarily entered into the Geneva Agreement and both agreed to the role of the United Nations Secretary-General in the event of a disagreement over the resolution of the problem. It concerns the ability of a state to repudiate a treaty because it has a feeling that the benefits it enjoys under it are now not enough and that in spite of its inability to force its will on a smaller neighbor, that neighbor and the rest of the world should allow it to continue this state of destabilization in perpetuity.”

He reminded that as things stood prior to February 2018, that state of destabilization would have endured in perpetuity by denying Guyana resort to any of the accepted mechanisms of International or Regional dispute resolution.

“Guyana must instead face and persuade Venezuela only of its case. Since its independence, Guyana has been engaged in trying to persuade Venezuela to provide meaningful evidence of her claim in order to bring the matter to an end. For at least twenty-five of those fifty-two years, discussions took the form of a Good Offices Process, under the aegis of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.”

According to Guyana’s Foreign Secretary, on January 30, 2018, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency António Guterres, concluded that there had been no significant progress from the final year of the 2017 Good Offices process which had an enhanced mandate of mediation.

“He advised us that he had chosen the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the means that is now to be used for the solution of the controversy. That decision is binding on both Guyana and Venezuela pursuant to the powers of we conferred on him under Article IV (2) of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which was concluded between our two States to provide a mechanism for the resolution of the controversy.  Venezuela, however, rejected the decision of the Secretary-General.”

Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency António Guterres.

The press statement pointed out that in accordance with that decision, the Guyana Government filed its application with the ICJ on March 29, 2018, at The Hague.  It asked that the Court adjudge and declare that:

a)  The 1899 Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela, and the boundary established by the Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela;

b)  Guyana enjoys full sovereignty over the Essequibo, and Venezuela enjoys full sovereignty over the territory west of the Essequibo; Guyana and Venezuela are under an obligation to fully respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with the boundary established by the 1899 Award;

 c) Venezuela shall immediately withdraw from and cease its occupation of the eastern half of the island of Ankoko, and each and every other territory which is recognised as Guyana’s sovereign territory in accordance with the 1899 Award;

 d) Venezuela shall refrain from threatening or use of force against any person and/or company licensed by Guyana to engage in economic or commercial activity in Guyanese territory as determined by the 1899 Award, or in any maritime areas appurtenant to such territory over which Guyana has sovereignty or exercises sovereign rights, and shall not interfere with any Guyanese or Guyanese- authorised activities in those areas;

e) Venezuela is internationally responsible for its violations of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a consequence.

 “Venezuela refuses to participate in the case on grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear it.  The Court, in keeping with the process via which the matters coming to it have to be processed, required the two countries to provide their arguments on jurisdiction, as a first step. Following, the Court will decide on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.”

Guyana has already submitted its arguments on jurisdiction to the Court on the stipulated date and, even though the Court established a date for the submission of counter arguments from Venezuela on the issue, no submission was forthcoming. The Court then took the decision to go ahead with the case, always leaving the door open for Venezuela to join the proceedings.

“In a few weeks, on June 30, we will be given an opportunity to plead our case, based on a magnanimous decision of the Court to go ahead with the case despite the current global crisis. We are grateful for this opportunity. It is an opportunity to which we have looked forward for decades.”

Greenidge noted that once the Court decides that it has jurisdiction, it will proceed to the merits phase, where the validity of the Arbitral Award will be examined in detail.

“A favourable decision by the Court will be of tremendous benefit to Guyana. Guyana has suffered tremendously over the years at the hands of Venezuela from acts of intimidation, threats of military action, incursions into our sovereign territory and the stymieing of our economic development.”

 He added that the Court’s decision will promote stability and investor confidence in Guyana and will lift, once and for all, this “unwelcome burden that we have been carrying as a nation” for such a long time.

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