Commonwealth reaffirms support for Guyana in light of Venezuela’s recent actions

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, has reiterated the Commonwealth’s backing for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the border controversy with Venezuela.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the SG expressed concern at the Venezuelan president’s promulgation of the ‘Organic Law for the Defence of Essequiba’ on April 3, 2024.    

This move by Venezuela purports to exercise control over Guyana’s Essequibo region.

“This legislation appears to create a new state in Venezuela, the Head of State of Venezuela will have the power to elect a governor, and the National Assembly of Venezuela will have legislative functions in this territory. Also, all political maps of Venezuela will now include the ‘state of Guyana Essequiba’,” the SG said.

She noted that last year, the ICJ issued its provisional measures to prevent any action by Venezuela that could lead to the annexation of Guyana’s territory, pending the decision in the substantive case.

In addition to these measures, the two countries signed the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in which, inter alia, both states agreed to use international law and diplomatic means to address the controversy and to refrain from escalating the conflict.  

She stressed that Venezuela’s recent action is in direct contravention of these provisions, and urged that the country abide by international law, and to manage the dispute in ways that guarantee the peace and stability of the Caribbean region.

“The Commonwealth affirms that the ICJ process is the appropriate and lawful means to address the matter under international law,” she emphasised.

The secretary-general further stated, “I am encouraged by the firm and consistent support from the entire Commonwealth family for the Government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. I also call on member states to give whatever support they may feel appropriate to Guyana in this time of need. I offer my continued support, and that of the Commonwealth, to help resolve the matter by peaceful means.”

The controversy surrounding two-thirds of Guyana’s territory was settled in 1899, through an Arbitral Award.

However, during the early 1960s, Venezuela’s claims to the Essequibo region resurged, and the country threatened physical invasion.

In the case currently before the ICJ, Guyana is seeking that the court affirm the validity and binding effect of the 1899 Award, which fixed the border between the two countries.

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