Border controversy case: Venezuela discloses intention to join proceedings

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Almost three months after Guyana submitted its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requesting that the Court confirm the legal validity and effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award regarding the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, the latter has disclosed its intention to join the proceedings.

File: Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge gesturing to Guyana’s map

This is according to a press statement issued by Venezuela’s Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs, where it was indicated that their decision to partake in the court proceedings came on the heels of a letter by the ICJ on June 4, 2018, announcing that the President of the Court will meet with both country’s representatives on June 18, 2018 regarding the “procedural issues” of the case.

According to Venezuela, their “Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, faithful to its historical position and in accordance with Bolivarian Peace Diplomacy, reiterates its firm willingness to defend the territorial integrity of our country based on the 1966 Geneva Agreement, the legal framework that governs the territorial dispute of Essequibo.”

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on the Wednesday morning said that the “President of the International Court of Justice has invited the representatives of Guyana and Venezuela to attend a meeting with him on June 18, 2018 in The Hague for the purpose of fixing the schedule for the filing of the written pleadings in the case. This is part of the Court’s normal procedure following the filing of a case.”

Moreover, the Ministry outlined that the “meeting with the President of the Court will be limited to the matter of the schedule” and that Guyana will be represented by its Legal Counsel.

On March 29 2018, Guyana submitted its application to the ICJ, following a decision made by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in choosing the Court as the next means of resolving the controversy that arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela was null and void.

According to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Statement, in its Application to the Court, “Guyana highlighted that Venezuela had, for more than 60 years, consistently recognized and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 Map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the Award.”

Venezuela’s map covering Guyana’s territory.

Moreover, it was outlined that Venezuela had only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and had threatened not to recognize the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

Guyana’s Application, notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to justify “its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, it has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

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