No more good officer – Guyana tells UN

Guyana has written to the Secretary General of the United Nations indicating that after 25 years of the Good Officer process in the Venezuela border controversy this government is looking for other mechanisms which will bring relief.

After giving the keynote address at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association Ltd midyear luncheon at the Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge told Stabroek News: “The question to whether we have signalled to the Secretary General the answer is yes. We had some preliminary discussions, very preliminary. We have, in writing to the Secretary General, indicated to him that our impression, our strong view, is the Geneva Convention has been a fig leaf behind which the Venezuelans have engaged, in a sense, in disruptive, negative and in the extreme in the economic warfare against Guyana and therefore we can no longer embrace the mechanism of simply appointing another Good Officer because it seems not to contain Venezuela from either taking military action or from dealing with any specific problems.”

Stabroek News asked if Guyana had signalled to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Good Officer approach has become redundant to which the minister replied, “We have signalled to him.”

He added, “at this stage it is nether appropriate nor possible to say more. One has somehow, to keep in dialogue with the SG so that the SG recognizes what has occurred. I am not suggesting he doesn’t recognize at all, but you know in trying to dodge between the raindrops as it were one can often find a long time being taken to remedy what is obvious in the search very often for consensus within the parties. So that may be where the challenge lies; the SG needs to be comforted that he will be supported if he goes for a fair decision.”

The minister said that the Geneva Agreement of 1966 in no way signalled that Guyana and Venezuela had to consult each other in the management of any contested territories due to the legally binding Arbitral Award of 1899. “I emphasise that the convention does not give to Venezuela any say in the development of the Essequibo nowhere in the Geneva Convention does it say that Guyana has to seek Venezuela’s say so for either having an Exclusive Economic Zone which in fact didn’t exist at the time that convention was signed or that we need to only jointly develop these areas with Venezuela. So we believe that it has been abused and the intention that we envisage, the intention that I dare say the British and the world had in mind when the Geneva Agreement was signed was not a scenario in which, whilst the talking is going on one partner is engaged in eroding the existing borders,” Greenidge stated.

The EEZs were devised under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which took place between 1973-1982 Guyana is a signatory as of 1994, however Venezuela is not.

He said Venezuela has time and time again undermined Guyana’s economic development and “that was never on the agenda and it is not an acceptable framework to proceed. So the SG has to find a mechanism that does not give one party that opportunity,” he said of the Good Officer process. The minister had earlier spoken about Guyana looking to a judicial settlement. But he refrained from expounding on that at this time.

Among a blitz of questions from the media following the minister’s presentation on the border controversy he was asked how the Mercosur meeting went last week and if Guyana had requested support from the plethora of South American countries. The minister stated that the government representatives, inclusive of President David Granger, did draw to the attention of Mercosur partners the moral and legal case in favour of Guyana.

Additionally the minister stated that lobbying is ongoing with the French Government as Venezuela’s maritime demarcations also intrude on the EEZ of French Guiana. Greenidge did reveal that while he was unable to meet the French Ambassador while he was in Guyana the ambassador was aware of the current situation. The minister said Guyana needed to lobby the French to see if they were in consensus with the 1899 Agreement.

During the GMSA presentation, Minister Greenidge showed maps from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from the 1930s which depicted the state of Venezuela while respecting the 1899 land border. He said it was unheard of that a country would have a claim when cartographic depictions showed that the border was adhered to from 1899 well into the 1960s.

Greenidge said there was no sense to the methodology used by Venezuela when drawing its arbitrary new maritime borders which encompass the majority of Caricom countries ridding them effectively of their respective EEZs.

He said Venezuela has been unable to provide any substantial reasoning for disputing the 1899 Agreement, which the country would have signed as a fully independent and sovereign nation.

Recently, Venezuela had called on the UN to appoint a new Good Officer to serve on the issue. The last Good Officer was Norman Girvan, who died in April 2014 and was not replaced.

Greenidge had said that process had run its course without yielding results. “It has already been indicated by the previous government that the process of good officers has run its course. It can’t take us anywhere constructive and indeed I think the feeling is as it has evolved it has served as the cover, not deliberately on the part of the UN of course, but it has served for a cover under which Guyana’s sovereignty has been threatened…,” he had previously told members of the press.

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