Harmon denies oil companies helping with court fees in Venezuela border case

Guyana will pay its own fees if its border controversy with Venezuela goes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Minister of State Joseph Harmon said last Thursday, while insisting that no oil company will be contributing.

“In the event that the matter goes to the ICJ, the legal fees would be paid by the Government of Guyana. The Government of Guyana is responsible for that. It’s a national sovereignty matter and it’s something we will have to pay for,” Harmon told a post-Cabinet news conference, where he was asked about the issue.

Before demitting office last year, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his assessment on the way forward declared that the long-running border controversy with Venezuela would be referred to the ICJ if significant progress is not made by the end of 2017 in the ongoing Good Officer process.

Over the last two and a half years, Guyana has argued for a juridical settlement of the controversy, contending that decades of the Good Officer process have resulted in no progress while allowing Venezuela to interfere with Guyana’s development. Venezuela has been pressing for a continuation of the Good Officer process.

Asked whether any of the oil companies would be contributing to the payment of the legal fees, Harmon responded in the negative, stating that it “is a government responsibility.”

President David Granger has reiterated his government’s commitment to the course of action outlined by Ban.

A statement released by the Ministry of the Presidency in September stated that the president made government’s position clear during his meeting with current Secretary-General António Guterres.

The statement said that in an interview in New York, the president noted that the engagement with Guterres offered an opportunity to seek clarification and to be updated on the progress thus far.

“[It] was largely what you will call a situational report and a commitment on the part of Guyana to remain engaged…We will continue to exchange views with the intention of bringing this matter to a successful closure,” Granger added.

Guyana’s relations with Venezuela significantly deteriorated in 2015, when Caracas issued a maritime decree intended to claim areas where US company ExxonMobil had earlier made a huge oil find. This resulted in Guyana leading a diplomatic offensive against Caracas in the region for the withdrawal of the maritime decree. Caracas later amended the decree but it remained unacceptable to Guyana.

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