Senior US official restates recognition of 1899 award settling boundary with Venezuela

The United States has reiterated its recognition of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award settling the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, even as it expressed concern about the ongoing turmoil in Caracas.

“As far as US policy is concerned we recognised the border established in 1899,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Juan Gonzalez said in an invited comment to Stabroek News on Thursday.

Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have been frosty for over a year now since President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree laying claim to most of Guyana’s Atlantic waters.

The Venezuelan decree had followed closely on the heels of an announcement by US Company ExxonMobil of a significant oil find in Guyana’s waters. The Venezuelan decree laid claim to this area.

Following the rising tensions, President David Granger and Maduro met Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in September where a numberof steps were agreed. This was after Granger had turned to the world peace keeping body for intervention.

Granger also embarked on a vigorous campaign to internationalise the issue and up the pressure on Caracas to withdraw the decree. Caracas later withdrew the decree and issued a new one which Guyana still finds objectionable.

Juan Gonzalez
Juan Gonzalez

Gonzalez, who has responsibility for US policy implementation in Central America and the Caribbean, said that as Washington pushes for dialogue and ultimately an amicable solution, it will stand in support of the 1899 agreement.

“We actually have Peace Corps volunteers that are in the area. We recognise the borders of Guyana. We understand that there is a (controversy)  underway and we support a solution where both countries find an acceptable and agreeable resolution, be that with whatever mechanism they choose to use and we have been supporting dialogue with the United Nations,” he asserted. He added, “But until the countries come to an agreement otherwise we will recognize the 1899 borders as they have been established and agreed to by both countries.”

Caricom has also expressed its support for the role of the United Nations Secretary General and his efforts, in keeping with the provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, to bring the controversy to a definitive and judicious conclusion.

The one time Coordinator of US policy development and implementation in the Andean region where Venezuela falls, said that his country also is closely monitoring the tensions in Venezuela.

“We are increasingly concerned with the political and economic situation in Venezuela. Specifically you see that the… administration of President Nicolas Maduro, has used the Supreme Court to actually undermine the power of National Assembly. These are representatives that have been elected by the people of Venezuela and what that is doing is… eliminating this base for political dialogue in the country,” the Colombia-born Gonzalez said.

“What we have been actually doing is trying to encourage, in a spirit of friendship, a conversation that actually leads to  reconciliation between the government and the opposition and for the government to address some of the serious and I would say even grave economic challenges that it is currently facing. Unfortunately that is not what we are seeing at this moment and that is why we are particularly concerned. Of course, Guyana as the neighbour and Colombia as the neighbour, I am sure, are particularly concerned,” he added.

Guyana’s Army Head, Brigadier Mark Phillips told Stabroek News that Guyana continues to monitor its borders in the wake of the economic crisis in Venezuela but so far has not seen “any unusual movement.”

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs stressed that while the US wants to see an end to the political and economic instability in Venezuela, only the people of that nation can make their concerns known and find a solution. “The only solution, the only way to stability in Venezuela is for there to be real dialogue between the government and its people. So US policy is simply to support that conversation. The reality is that it is the Venezuelan people who will have to solve this problem.

The United States cannot solve the situation in Venezuela. They can encourage dialogue, you know try to support that discussion, we can engage multilateral bodies to promote that conversation but we can’t solve what is going on in Venezuela. Only the Venezuelan people can,” the US official said.

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