US support for Guyana on border controversy with Venezuela “ironclad” – Under Secretary Jenkins

US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control & International Security, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, has reiterated the United States’ unwavering support for Guyana in the ongoing border controversy with Venezuela.

Ambassador Jenkins, who was on a four-day visit to Georgetown, met with Prime Minister Mark Phillips and other senior Government officials on Wednesday, and discussions included regional security, multilateral cooperation, and Guyana’s role as a leader in the Caribbean.

This visit by Ambassador Jenkins reinforces the US Government’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with Guyana, including supporting the country’s sovereignty. This was related by this US official during a press conference with local media in Georgetown on Friday.

“I want to say very clearly that we’re very supportive of your Government and Guyana, and very much support the sovereignty of your country. We very much want to make that very clear: that our commitment to you is ironclad, and this is an issue that we are working with you on a regular basis,” the ambassador declared.

She reaffirmed the position of the United States that the 1899 Arbitral Award determined the land boundary between Venezuela and Guyana, and added that the US Government sees this as a model for a peaceful resolution of the decades-old controversy.

“We want to see a peaceful resolution, but we are very committed to your Government on this important issue,” the Under Secretary has reassured.

In recent months, tensions between Guyana and Venezuela have been heightened with reports of the Spanish-speaking nation increasing its mobilisation of troops at the borders. This is a move that has sparked unease not just among Guyanese, but in the region as well. The US official has said that not only are they looking at all the different issues and factors that can create instability in Guyana, but those that threaten security in the region as a whole.

“Those are some of the things we’re looking at in terms of making sure that we are very committed to Guyana’s sovereignty regarding Venezuela, but also other things that could be creating problems for that sovereignty,” Ambassador Jenkins has posited.

More recently, however, reports of Russia sending combat vessels to the Caribbean with possible stops in neighbouring Venezuela have again reignited concerns about regional security. Based on international reports, the fleet of Russian warships, which docked in Havana last Wednesday after drills in the Atlantic Ocean, includes a frigate, a nuclear-powered submarine, an oil tanker, and a rescue tag.

Cuban officials had previously said this exercise with the Russian warships is not a threat to the region, and Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had earlier this month said the Guyana Government is not worried about this development, but is keeping a close watch.

Jagdeo told Guyana Times at a June 6 press conference that Guyana would nevertheless remain vigilant, and is engaging regional partners on this matter.

“The President [Dr Irfaan Ali] has spoken to several people in the region, and the view shared by some of our partners is that it’s not something that we should worry about; that it doesn’t represent a direct threat to Guyana or Guyana’s interest. Nevertheless, we’re vigilance and we’re keeping this issue firmly in our policy radar,” Jagdeo had said.

This position has been echoed by the US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security on Friday. In response to questions about the Russian warships in the Caribbean, Ambassador Jenkins said the US is always concerned about how Russia is engaging other countries.

“We also are aware of the sub that’s been in the region, and what I can say about that is that we’ve been aware that they’re working with Cuba, and had these kinds of naval exercises in the region in the past. This is something they actually did in 2020 as well, so we are aware of that. We don’t see that as a threat to the US, but we are tracking it. We’ve got Congress on it…so, [we’re] keeping track of what’s going on there,” the US diplomat noted.