Border controversy: UN chief concerned by recent escalation in tension, reminds ICJ is chosen means of settlement

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, on Thursday indicated that the UN chief was following with concern the recent escalation in tension between Guyana and Venezuela over the border controversy.

After calling for good faith and the avoidance of any action that would aggravate or extend the controversy, Dujarric noted that “in January 2018, after carefully analysing developments in the good offices process that had taken place over the preceding years, the Secretary General, in the exercise of the power and responsibility conferred on him by the 1966 Geneva Agreement, chose the International Court of Justice as the means that was next to be used for the solution of the border controversy between the two countries”.

Last month, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people in a referendum set for December 3, 2023. The referendum will seek the Venezuelan people’s approval to, among other things, annex Essequibo and create a Venezuelan state. This particular question (#5) also seeks the citizens’ approval for Venezuela to grant citizenship and identity cards to residents of Essequibo.

The Guyana Government has since sought the ICJ’s intervention to prevent Venezuela from taking action through its planned referendum to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region.
The World Court has set Tuesday, November 14, 2023, for a special sitting to hear Guyana’s request regarding Venezuela’s planned referendum. The court will also hear from the Venezuelan side as well.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Government on Monday passed a motion in the National Assembly, denouncing Venezuela’s effort to threaten Guyana and by extension, the Region’s peace and security, as well as Venezuela’s illegal referendum on annexing Essequibo. The motion was approved unanimously by the Government and Opposition sides during a special sitting.

Over the past few weeks, Guyana has been informing regional and international partners of Venezuela’s planned referendum, which has been criticised by the United States; Caricom, and the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as several nations in the region, including Brazil. There is a consensus that Venezuela’s referendum threatens the peace, security, and stability of the region.

Last week, Prime Minister, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips, appeared before the OAS Permanent Council during a Hybrid Special Session requested by Guyana, where he highlighted concerns regarding the planned referendum on the Essequibo region and also of the Spanish-speaking nation’s increase in military troops near the border.

At that session, hemispheric members of the OAS Permanent Council also joined in showing solidarity towards Guyana against Venezuela’s heightened aggression. Among the countries declaring their support for Guyana was Brazil, through its Representative at the OAS, Ambassador Benoni Belli.