By Devina Samaroo
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd led a high-level delegation to Brasilia, Brazil to advance talks with Venezuelan officials in continuation of the progress made one month ago by the Presidents of the two neighbouring nations, Dr Irfaan Ali and Nicolas Maduro respectively.
The first meeting of the Joint Commission of Foreign Ministers and Technicians of Guyana and Venezuela, created by the Argyle Declaration of December 14, 2023, was held on Thursday at Itamaraty Palace, and was observed by a number of officials, including those from the United Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
During the discussions, Guyana and Venezuela presented their agenda proposals for the work of the Joint Commission, which will be discussed at a later stage in a new meeting that could also be convened in Brazil.
Acknowledging their differences, they undertook to continue dialoguing on the basis of the parameters established by the Argyle Declaration.
Minister Todd, addressing a press conference in Brasilia following the meeting, described it as a “good start” to creating a better future of good neighbourliness for the next generations.
“We’re here in the interest of the people of Guyana and the people of Venezuela,” he reminded. Minister Todd explained that Guyanese and Venezuelans get along seamlessly at various levels, and so, too, must the nation states.
“…if we have Venezuelans and Guyanese who are getting along and finding common areas where they can collaborate, it should not escape us, as nation states, where we should be able to find common areas of mutual interest to advance good neighbourliness,” he affirmed.
And while making it clear that Guyana remains committed to resolving the border controversy before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Minister Todd noted that, in the meantime, through the Argyle Agreement, the two countries could work together.
“While we wait on the court… here is where the Argyle Agreement is integral: we can continue to work on areas of common interest…because the court will come and will pronounce, and we will still have to move on…This is a good start, because we were able to meet and dialogue, we were able to meet and exchange our views and ideas. We’re leaving here today with an understanding of where we are and where we need to be. We’re going back to headquarters, Georgetown, to continue working on advancing our neighbourly relations with our neighbour to the west…,” Todd remarked, as he acknowledged the support of the interlocutors of the process.
“We believe in a future for the next generation, who will not have to treat with controversies, but can move ahead with working on advancing what we would have initiated,” Minister Todd has said.
During the dialogue, Guyana’s delegation presented to the Venezuelan team several areas in which the two countries can collaborate: such as on tackling transnational and organised crimes, pursuing economic cooperation, dealing with the effects of climate change, and addressing the migration situation.
Minister Todd also suggested that the two countries could discuss agreements already entered into between them on drugs, Jet A1 Fuel, and matters relating to food security. He also recommended that regional and hemispheric statements on peace and security could be a means of moving forward in the discussions.
Meanwhile, Guyana also made it clear to the Venezuelan delegation that it remains committed to resolving the border controversy peacefully through the World Court.
“…we’ve reiterated our support and commitment to the UN Charter, which includes the respect for international law, and the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which falls under the framework of international law,” Minister Todd informed the press conference.
A press statement issued late on Thursday night reaffirmed that “Guyana maintained that the settlement of this controversy was properly before the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement. Therefore, it must remain there until the Court gives its final ruling on the merits of the case, which will be fully respected by Guyana. Guyana will not undermine the judicial process or the Geneva Agreement by participating in any other means of settlement of the controversy as long as it is pending before the Court.”
Guyana’s delegation also included Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud; Permanent Secretary Ambassador Elisabeth Harper; Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Richard Van West-Charles; Director of the Frontiers Department, Donnette Streete; and Chargé d’Affaires of the Guyana Embassy in Brazil, Vernon Robinson.
The Venezuelan delegation, meanwhile, was headed by its Foreign Minister Yván Gil.