Guyana team for Antigua talks on Venezuela border controversy

-as deadline for ICJ move looms

A Guyana team will be heading to Antigua within a few days to once again meet with United Nations (UN) representative Dag Nylander to discuss the Venezuela border controversy as an end-of-year deadline for substantial progress on the matter approaches.

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge is optimistic that Nylander will complete his work and that UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres will stand by a commitment he made that he will decide by December 31st  on the matter being taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On December 16, 2016, in a much-anticipated decision, Guterres’ predecessor,  Ban Ki-moon decided that the Good Offices process on the decades-old border controversy would be given one more year and if by the end of 2017 “significant progress” was not made, the case would move to the ICJ.

Despite several rounds of meetings between the two sides, it doesn’t appear as if substantial progress has been made on resolving the controversy.

Carl Greenidge

Guyana’s team for Antigua is  made up largely of legal minds who specialize in international law, Greenidge related yesterday during his budget debate speech in Parliament.

“So that process we will finish soon. The representative of the UN secretary general has subsequent to the November 10th (2017) deadline of his own mandate…asked us to have another meeting. And in the meeting that should take place in Antigua in a day or two, we will be meeting with the representative again…I assume at a more informal level,” Greenidge related.

And while Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is expected to be in Antigua at the same time, it is unclear if a representative from his country would also be at the meeting.

In October the foreign ministers of Guyana and Venezuela met in New York and had discussions facilitated by Nylander,  Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General organized within the framework of the Good Offices mandate.

Dag Nylander

“We are looking at a process at some point to resolve the question of the validity of the actual award. I mean sometimes in the public you get the impression that a decision is being made as to where the border lies. The actual award is ultimately about the borders but it is really a decision of whether the court somehow, in making this decision, had acted inappropriately or in a manner that was in keeping with the law,” Greenidge told the House.

Greenidge related that the UN had earlier decided that teams from Venezuela and Guyana would be required to travel to engage in consultations. Even as he acknowledged the costliness of the exercise, however, Greenidge shared the view that resources need to be invested to protect territory.

It is to this end that he defended the budget sums on travel spent by his ministry saying that much of it was necessary to facilitate the work needed to deal with the issue.

“…when you look at the budget and you see money spent to travel, it is my view…that you cannot afford to be penny-pinching or say that you cannot afford to defend the territory. You have to be able to find the resources to do this work and we have tried to do that,” he said.

He noted that the teams involved in the consultations have included members of civil society, as well as government and opposition members, and commended the opposition PPP/C for the support they have lent on border and territorial integrity matters.

“…we are happy I think, to be able to say that we had all the support we have requested, all that we could have expected from the opposite benches. I think we should congratulate ourselves on that,” he stated, opining that the “other side” has not been able to represent their own interests in the same way.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed to the importance of a holistic and inclusive support system for the country when dealing with matters of territorial integrity.

He explained the importance of a unified front to the global community and pointed out the battering this country has been taking from especially Latin American countries who seemed to have been  constant ears to Venezuela’s narrative on the controversy.

This, he said, was affecting the country’s international investment negatively and that Guyana’s citizenry have to understand that “perception and consistency of policies matter.”

It is on this point that he condemned attacks that have been made by international and local press against the government here and investors.

“One of the things that is clearly of concern to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the course of the last year is this—that we have seen in the international press—especially in the Latin American press—a series of attacks, both against the government and people on one hand and on some of the investors that have been involved in Guyana,” he stated, noting that some of these articles have been regurgitated in the local press.

The Minister called on all persons to help lay a case for this country as the matter concerning the border was settled since 1899 but that Venezuela wants to change the narrative on the issue to suit its purpose.

Over the last few years, Guyana has argued for a juridical settlement of the controversy, contending that decades of the Good Officer process have resulted in no progress but has allowed Venezuela to interfere with Guyana’s development. Venezuela on the other hand has been pressing for a continuation of the Good Officer process.

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