Guyana on Thursday abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution which declared as invalid, Crimea’s Russia-backed referendum which resulted in its declaration of secession from Ukraine.
The vote at UN Headquart-ers in New York was eventually carried by a margin of 100 in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions. The abstention by Guyana and several Caricom countries has sparked consternation in diplomatic circles and among local analysts. Analysts here say George-town’s abstention is particularly disturbing as it undermines trip lines which can protect it from aggression from both its eastern and western neighbours with whom there have been longstanding frontier tensions. The observers note that the use of Russian-backed forces to occupy Crimea, the hastily arranged referendum to pave the way for the secession vote and Russia’s eventual incorporation of the territory are redolent of the dangers that Guyana has faced on its western border with the seizure by Venezuela of Guyana’s half of Ankoko Island in 1966. The use of force also runs counter to Guyana’s more recent concerns about the eviction of an oil rig from Guyana’s waters by the Suriname navy in 2000 and last year’s interception by Venezuela’s navy of a research vessel in Guyana’s waters.
Asked yesterday for the rationale for Guyana’s abstention, Foreign Minis-ter Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett pointed to the principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. This principle is what the proponents of the UN resolution have charged has been violated in the Crimean referendum.
Rodrigues in her response yesterday to Stabroek News said “… let me say that the Govern-ment of Guyana views with grave concern the events that have unfolded in Ukraine in recent weeks and months, which have led to the loss of innocent life, substantial material damage and the removal of the democratically elected government in that country. We reiterate the call made by the Caribbean Community in its Statement of March 5, 2014 for the peaceful settlement of disputes and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The reality precipitated on the ground has had a destabilizing impact and effectively denied the people of that sister country the opportunity to freely and sovereignly determine their fate through peaceful dialogue and the democratic process. We regret that the legitimate expression of the people was compromised by the actions of radical and extremist elements and the intervention of powerful external interests.
“As a small state, Guyana is obliged to insist on respect by all states for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law as a guarantor of international peace and security and as a bulwark against external threats. Guyana has long upheld the principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the prohibition against the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and against intervention in the domestic affairs of states. We also respect the right of peoples to self-determination and stress the need for a consistent and principled approach to its application. It is therefore a matter of concern that the application of these principles by powerful actors in the international community is often marked by unevenness, inconsistency and double standards. Guyana’s abstention, and indeed that of the other 57 countries that voted in the same manner, should therefore be seen in this context.
“Guyana calls on all parties involved to uphold the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. We call for a balanced approach by all sides with a view to a de-escalation of the crisis and the search for a durable solution. In this regard, Guyana welcomes and encourages the mediation efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General.”
Reporting on Thursday’s vote, Reuters said that Moscow had exerted enormous pressure on a large number of countries to vote against the resolution or to abstain. Sources say it appears that this is what Georgetown and other Caricom countries succumbed to. The sources say the compromising of universally accepted principles such as the repudiation of the use of force in favour of assuaging Russian interests was dangerous to Guyana’s interests. The sources say it added to the shift in Guyana’s position in supporting Argentina’s claim to the Falklands which was also seen as undermining support for Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela.
While Guyana and several other Caricom countries including St Lucia, St Vincent and Antigua abstained, Barbados, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti voted for the resolution. Sources say the split vote again highlights Caricom’s inability to vote as a bloc on important but straightforward matters such as the Crimean issue where there has been broad international consternation at the aggression against Ukrainian forces in Crimea and the mobilizing of Russian forces on Kiev’s eastern frontier.
Among the eleven who voted against the resolution were Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan and Syria.
The resolution sponsored by Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine said in part that noting that the referendum of March 16th 2014 was not authorized by Ukraine, that the UN General Assembly:
-Affirms its commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders;
-Calls upon all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means;
-Urges all parties to pursue immediately the peaceful resolution of the situation with respect to Ukraine through direct political dialogue, to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that may increase tensions, and to engage fully with international mediation efforts
-Underscores that the referendum held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on 16 March 2014, having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol.