US reaffirms support for peaceful resolution to Guyana/Venezuela border controversy

United States of America’s Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, Ambassador Brian A. Nichols reaffirms the United States support for a peaceful resolution to the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.

Ambassador Nichols in a tweet today, stated that the 1899 arbitral award must be respected.

“The 1899 arbitral award determined the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela and should be respected unless or until otherwise determined by a competent legal body. ” The U.S. supports a peaceful resolution to this issue,” the Assistant Secretary of State tweeted.

The US reaffirmation of its support for a peaceful resolution comes on the heels of a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation today which reminded of Guyana’s commitment to a peaceful resolution to the controversy.

The Ministry reminded that Guyana brought the matter to the Court in an Application submitted on March 28, 2018.

The Court confirmed its jurisdiction over Guyana’s claims, rejecting Venezuela’s objections, in a Judgment issued on December 18, 2020.

This, the ministry stated, assures that it will be the Court which decides, with final and binding effect on the parties – Guyana and Venezuela – whether the 1899 Arbitral Award establishing the international boundary between the two States was lawfully issued and remains legally valid and permanently binding as a matter of international law.

Guyana, the statement noted, is optimistic that the Court will decide the case in its favour, and that the validity of the Arbitral Award and the boundary will be upheld.

In the meantime, it is dedicating all of its efforts to the achievement of this outcome.

His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana before the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2022, had stated, “In the matter of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – challenged and threatened by Venezuela as it is, we remain – to quote the Secretary General at the opening of the General Debate yesterday – “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”.

In this case, ‘judicial settlement’ as determined by the Secretary General himself.

The head of state said 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.”

The Tribunal was created by the Treaty of Washington of 1897 under which the parties – both Britain and Venezuela – agreed to accept the Tribunal’s Award as ‘a full, perfect and final settlement’ of the boundary issue. 123 years later, Guyana still accepts and celebrates the Award as such.

Venezuela had applauded the Award. In the words of the law firm handling Venezuela’s case, written in the American Journal of International Law as late as 1949: “The Award secured to Venezuela the mouth of the Orinoco and control of the Orinoco basin, these being the most important questions at issue.”

On 7th May 1905, an official boundary map was drawn up by Commissioners of Britain and Venezuela delineating the boundary as awarded by the Tribunal. For almost sixty years, Venezuela recognised, respected – and even protected – that boundary.

In 1962 however, as Guyana’s independence drew closer and the neighbour would no longer be Britain but a fledgling State, Venezuela abandoned the path of propriety and with it the rule of law and cast eyes on Guiana’s Essequibo territory.

The ministry noted that as, “Guyana celebrates this anniversary date of the Arbitral Award of Paris of 3rd October 1899, we celebrate the rule of international law and the sanctity of Treaties. We celebrate that our quest for justice has led us to the hallowed halls of the International Court of Justice.”

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