Govt acquiesce to UN proposals to settle border controversy

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After months of waiting the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations has finally pronounced on its decision over the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy, announcing that it will be extending the Good Offices Process for another year to have the matter settled.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro along with President David Granger pictured with outgoing United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro along with President David Granger pictured with outgoing United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Guyana had in 2014 indicated that it was opting out of the very process, which was on the other hand fully embraced by its Spanish speaking counterpart.

Guyana’s position was that the process was doing very little to bring satisfaction and closure to the issue which has been prevailing for decades.

Making its official announcement Friday evening, the Secretary-General (SG) said it has reached the conclusion that the Good Offices Process will continue for one final year, with a new personal representative of the Secretary-General, with a strengthened mandate of mediation, who will be appointed by the Secretary-General designate shortly after he takes office.

The release said if, by the end of 2017, the SG concludes that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless both parties jointly request that he refrain from doing so.

According to the release, within the framework of the Geneva Agreement, a Good Offices Process under the Secretary-General has been in place for the last 25 years in order to find a solution to the controversy.

This process it said has so far involved three Personal Representatives of the Secretary-General. In spite of these efforts, it has not been possible to bridge the differences between the parties.

“The Secretary General has engaged in intensive efforts to find a way forward that would be most conducive to finding a solution.  To that end, the Secretary-General held a trilateral meeting with President David Granger of Guyana and President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela in the margins of the 70th General Assembly. The Secretary-General has subsequently dispatched several high-level missions to both capitals and held meetings at the highest level with both parties. In November of this year, he conducted an extensive stocktaking of the Good Offices Process,” the UN said in its statement Friday.

The Secretary-General has discussed the conclusions with the Secretary-General-designate, who has expressed concurrence with them.

“The Secretary-General and the Secretary-General designate applaud Guyana and Venezuela for addressing the controversy through peaceful means. The Secretary-General and the Secretary-General-designate are committed to see the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela resolved,” the statement said.

Fifty years ago, shortly before Guyana’s independence in 1966, the Geneva Agreement was signed with the aim of amicably resolving the controversy that had arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between Venezuela and what is now Guyana is null and void.

The 1966 Geneva Agreement confers on the Secretary-General of the United Nations the power to choose means of settlement of the controversy from among those that are contemplated in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter.

With Guyana on the verge of becoming a lucrative oil-producing nation, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree in May last year purporting to claim the majority of Guyana’s waters off the Essequibo shore.

The decree was seen as a flagrant violation of international law and was inconsistent with the principle that all states should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states.

In an effort to defend its sovereignty, Guyana made it clear to the Venezuelan Government that the Essequibo and its offshore waters belong to Guyana, and strengthened its push for judicial settlement of the issue, as the Good Officer process had yielded little result.

The border dispute between the two countries was set by an international tribunal in 1899, in an award the parties, including Venezuela, had agreed would be the final settlement.

Since the belligerence from Venezuela, moves have been made by the international community, including the UN Secretary-General, to push for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

The Guyanese leader and President Maduro had met with the outgoing UN Secretary-General for the first time in September last year to discuss the controversy. The meeting was dubbed fruitful as both Heads pledged to mend the bilateral relationship while attempts are being made to resolve the border controversy.

Meanwhile, the Government of Guyana in a statement late Friday evening said that it is pleased to be able to convey to the people of Guyana that a new point of promise in relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been reached.

“It has long been the accepted position of all Governments in Guyana that the best means of settlement of our controversy with Venezuela should be a reference of it to the International Court of Justice. We consider that controversy to be essentially a legal question and one eminently susceptible to a legal process of settlement,” the statement said.

It noted that there can be no higher tribunal for this purpose than the International Court of Justice to determine this matter on a definite basis. The Secretary General of the United Nations acting under the 1966 Geneva Agreement has informed the President of his decision to give the ‘good offices’ process one last period of twelve months, that is to the end of 2017.

“If, at the end of that period, the Secretary-General concludes that significant progress has not been made towards arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.”

The Government said that it accepts the decision of the Secretary General. “We stand committed to using our best endeavours to fulfill its highest expectations. The Government will be writing formally to him as well as to the President of Venezuela to indicate our acceptance of this decision.”

It also noted that the Government believes that, in taking this decision, the Secretary General has remained loyal to the sacred mission of the United Nations to uphold the law and maintain the peace between nations – small and large. (Guyana Times)

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