President Dr Irfaan Ali, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly’s sixth plenary session, made it clear to the world that Guyana would not deviate from the course set for a final, judicial settlement on its border controversy with Venezuela.
During the session, President Ali quoted UN Secretary General António Guterres, at the opening of the General Debate on Tuesday, when he said that they were “committed to make the most of every diplomatic tool for the pacific settlement of disputes, as set out in the Charter of the United Nations”.
These tools include negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement – relevant tools in the matter of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – challenged and threatened by Venezuela.
“In this case, ‘judicial settlement’ as determined by the Secretary General himself. The world’s nations can be assured that Guyana shall remain true to those peaceful processes and deny every effort to depart from them. The International Court of Justice has already affirmed its jurisdiction in the matter,” President Ali informed the General Assembly.
Venezuela has laid spurious claims to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which almost 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past seven years.
Guyana approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2018 seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
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. The Spanish-speaking nation had initially refused to participate in the proceedings and had even challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter. But in December 2020, the ICJ established that it has jurisdiction to hear the substantive case – something which Venezuela did not accept.
Back in March of this year, Guyana had submitted its written arguments for its memorial to the ICJ, which was a requirement by the court following its December 18, 2020 decision that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case against Venezuela.
Venezuela has since filed an objection, which according to the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry is nothing more than a bid to delay the substantial hearing of the 1899 Arbitral award case before the ICJ, after refusing to join the proceedings since 2018.
Various countries and organisations have already thrown their support behind the judicial settlement of the case. In May, Canada, through its High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman did so; Canada on Wednesday reaffirmed support for the judicial process embarked on at the ICJ.
In March, the United States had expressed support for Guyana, its stance reiterated during a meeting between US Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Caribbean Affairs and Haiti, Barbara A Feinstein and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has also reaffirmed support for Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela, urging the Spanish-speaking country to participate in the judicial process before the ICJ.
Support also came in June of this year from the Commonwealth. In a major decision coming out of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda, the Commonwealth Heads all threw their support behind the judicial process.
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.