Guyana open to dialogue with Venezuela, border discussion off the table – Vice President

Considering recent developments and Venezuela’s escalating aggression towards Guyana’s territory, Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo has expressed the government’s openness to dialogue on various issues. However, he firmly stated that Guyana will not re-enter bilateral negotiations to resolve the decades-old territorial controversy as the border issue was settled.

Speaking on Kaieteur Radio on Friday (December 8, 2023) evening, Dr. Jagdeo acknowledged Venezuela’s attempts to revive bilateral talks for a solution to the border issue but reiterated Guyana’s unwavering stance that a definitive and binding resolution can only be obtained through the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo

“We are open to dialogue with Venezuela. However, our red line is the ICJ process. Venezuela is trying to take the resolution of the border controversy back to the bilateral level,” the Vice President said.

He made it explicitly clear that the ongoing ICJ proceedings are non-negotiable and must remain separate from any dialogue.

“The long process that we explored at the bilateral level to have this matter resolved for over 50 years through mixed commissions and acting under the auspices of the good offices process, the UN Secretary General’s Office and we are not going back there…”

“…they [Venezuela] are trying to say to our colleagues and to the international community that the recourse to the ICJ is not provided for by the Geneva agreement. That’s false. It was the secretary general who referred the matter to the ICJ,” the Vice President said.

The vice president explained that Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is the President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and if talks are organised through that mechanism Guyana will participate in them.  “We’re inclined to participate in talks barring those issues, once those are properly organised and we don’t have a problem with a Brazilian and a CARICOM presence at those talks.”

Guyana’s border with Venezuela was legally and internationally decided over 100 years ago by a tribunal of arbitration in 1899 in what was determined then to be a “full, perfect, and final settlement”.

After 67 years, prior to Guyana’s independence, Venezuela challenged the 1899 Arbitral Award. This led to the signing of the Geneva Agreement in 1966.  Efforts over more than half-a-century, including a four-year Mixed Commission (1966-1970), a twelve-year moratorium (1970-1982), a seven-year process of consultations on a means of settlement (1983-1990), and a twenty-seven-year Good Offices Process under the UN Secretary-General’s authority (1990-2017), all failed to end the border controversy. 

After years of exhausted efforts, the matter was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in accordance with the 1966 Geneva Agreement. This referral followed Guyana’s official filing of its case in 2018.

In December 2020, the ICJ affirmed its jurisdiction to hear the case definitively, bolstering Guyana’s confidence in a favourable ruling upholding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.

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