US reaffirms support for Guyana on Venezuela border controversy

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US Deputy Assistant Secretary Barbara Feinstein and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

The United States’ (US) support for Guyana’s territorial border controversy case currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), was reiterated during the meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti, Barbara A Feinstein, and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Jagdeo spoke of his meeting with Feinstein on Friday during a press conference and how Guyana’s border case with Venezuela came up during the discussion. According to him, he was assured of US support for Guyana’s cause.

“We spoke a bit about the border too and the assurances that have been communicated publicly, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary, were repeated at the meeting, about the US position in relation to our sovereignty and support for our territorial integrity and sovereignty and the approach we have taken at the ICJ,” Jagdeo said.

Recently, top US officials visited Venezuela for the first time in years, to discuss the reopening of oil sales between Venezuela and the US. This was precipitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the announcement by the US that it would not be purchasing Russian oil.

According to Jagdeo, not only was it agreed between him and Feinstein that the US would share information on the contents of any such future meetings, assurances were also given that Guyana’s sovereignty did not feature during the last meeting.

“And we agreed that we will share more (information), so that when these meetings take place between the different parties, possibly US and Venezuela, we were assured first of all that Guyana did not come up and our sovereignty will not be part of any such discussion. And that we will continue to share more information about what takes place in these discussions in the future,” he explained.

During her visit, Feinstein met with Jagdeo, members of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Opposition and members of the Private Sector, and civil society, before departing Guyana on March 26.

On March 8, Guyana had submitted its written arguments for its memorial to the ICJ right on schedule, a critical step in the adjudication of Guyana’s border controversy with Venezuela. This was a requirement of the international court, per its December 18, 2020 decision that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case against Venezuela.

A statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry noted that Guyana now looks to the Court’s judicial process to settle the matter in accordance with the rule of law. According to the Ministry, the true commemoration of the 1966 Geneva Agreement is to participate fully in the juridical process… possibly a reference to Venezuela, which has been denying the jurisdiction of the Court, despite the Court already ruling it had this jurisdiction.

Guyana moved to the world court after exhausting all means of negotiation with Venezuela and the failed good offices process between the two South American neighbours. Then United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, in January 2018, decided that the case should be settled by the ICJ after exercising the powers vested in him to decide how the controversy should be settled by the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Guyana, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945, and began its activities in April 1946. The Court is composed of 15 Judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).

Back in March 2021, the ICJ had granted Guyana until March 8, 2022, to file its written submissions for the case, after requesting 12 months. Venezuela was given until March 8, 2023, to submit its counter-memorial.

The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which more than nine billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past six years.

In his address to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly last year, President Dr Irfaan Ali had informed the world about Venezuela’s continued disregard for international norm in pushing its illegal claim to Guyana and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The President had also used meetings with the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to update them on Venezuela’s actions, which had run the gamut from incendiary statements to issuing decrees. Following his meeting with Caricom, the community had issued a statement rebuking Venezuela and urging it to adhere to the ICJ process.