Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to resolve the conflict over the Essequibo in a peaceful manner. This is the result of the meeting held yesterday, Thursday, December 14, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The meeting was between the presidents of both countries, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Irfaan Ali of Guyana.
Tension between the two bordering countries in South America had become noticeably more acute in recent weeks, after Venezuela organized a non-binding referendum to ask its citizens about the future of an important strip of land, today administered by Guyana, but which during colonial times was part of the Venezuelan Captaincy General. The Essequibo is a 160,000 km territory located between the current Venezuelan border and the Essequibo River. It is an area rich in oil and other natural resources and is part of historical Venezuelan territorial claims that go back more than a century.
According to a joint communiqué issued after the meeting, the leaders agreed that “Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, will not threaten or use force against each other under any circumstances, including those arising from any dispute existing between the two States”.
Tense meeting in favor of diplomacy
The meeting between the delegations of the two countries lasted almost eleven hours. Diplomacy structured the talks in several phases: first, a meeting between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with the President of Guyana. Then another with the President of Venezuela and, finally, the meeting between the Venezuelan and Guyanese Presidents, which lasted 3 hours.
All these meetings resulted in a document with eleven points which neither of the presidents signed and which was presented to the media by the head of state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, host of the summit.
Ralph Gonsalves, president of the country hosting the meeting, explained that Venezuela and Guyana must put an end to threats between the two countries by any means. Similarly, the document speaks of resolving any dispute between the two countries “in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966,” a point on which Venezuela had insisted.
In 1966, the steps to be followed for the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Essequibo were agreed upon in the Swiss city, after Venezuela had defended before the United Nations in 1962 that the 1899 award of the Paris Arbitral Tribunal, which defined the common border between Venezuela and British Guiana, was “null and void”. It is therefore a certain Venezuelan victory, since the country’s claims stem from the argument that the 1899 decision was unjust in both substance and form.
Call for further dialogue
Likewise, among the agreements was also the call for further dialogue. It was agreed to “immediately” establish a joint commission between the foreign ministers of the two countries to provide an update on diplomatic progress to the two presidents within three months.
“They took note of Guyana’s affirmation that it is committed to the process and procedures of the International Court of Justice for the resolution of the border dispute. They took note of Venezuela’s assertion of its lack of consent and lack of recognition of the International Court of Justice and its jurisdiction in the border dispute,” the consensus document states.
In addition to the presence of representatives of CARICOM and CELAC, the event was attended by Celso Amorim, representative of Brazil, Gerardo Torres, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Honduras, Alvaro Leyva, the Foreign Minister of Colombia, as well as two observers from the United Nations.
Maduro scores a victory
Upon leaving the meeting, the Venezuelan president exclaimed that “it was a victory”, in reference to what his country achieved in the meeting with Guyana, highlighting the will of his people to defend peace, but also the truth.
“It has been worthwhile to defend the truth of Venezuela, to raise the flag of truth, to hoist our historical reasons and seek with Bolivarian diplomacy the path of understanding to channel this controversy through the path of dialogue”, Nicolas Maduro explained.
What is certain is that the Venezuelan head of state will be able to present the agreement in his country as a success of his strategy of tension and détente, as he has managed the conflict with the neighboring country. In this way, the Venezuelan president is trying to reinforce his figure in view of the important presidential elections that the country will undergo before the end of 2024.
For his part, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has reacted by repeating the position already maintained by his country, to the effect that the land border between both countries “must be respected, unless the parties reach a new agreement or a competent legal body decides otherwise.”
Likewise, Blinken thanked the role of Brazilian diplomacy in the search for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Guyana and Venezuela.