Guyana-Venezuela border controversy for World Court

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) joins President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela (left) and President David Granger of Guyana in a three-way handshake at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September 2016. (UN photo)

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres has recommended that the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy be referred to International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Stabroek News understands that the decision was communicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here today.

Guyana has been seeking recourse to the ICJ to settle the long-running controversy with Venezuela which emerged in 1962.

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had given the good offices process between the two countries one additional year – 2017 –  for talks at settling the controversy and if there was no substantial progress the matter would then be sent to the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

There had been no reported progress in the Good Offices process which was overseen by negotiator, Dag Nylander, leading to today’s UN decision.

President David Granger is to address the country on the matter.

A statement issued by the UN follows:

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela

The longstanding border controversy between the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void. In the Geneva Agreement of 1966, Guyana and Venezuela conferred upon the Secretary-General the power and responsibility to choose a means of peaceful settlement from amongst those contemplated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Geneva Agreement also provides that if the means so chosen does not lead to a solution of the controversy, the Secretary-General is to choose another means of settlement.

Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon communicated to the parties on 15 December 2016 a framework for the resolution of the border controversy based on his conclusions on what would constitute the most appropriate next steps. Notably, he concluded that the Good Offices Process, which had been conducted since 1990, would continue for one final year, until the end of 2017, with a strengthened mandate of mediation. He also reached the conclusion that if, by the end of 2017, his successor, Secretary-General António Guterres, concluded that significant progress had not been made towards arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he would choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly requested that he refrain from doing so.

In early 2017, Secretary-General Guterres appointed a Personal Representative, Mr. Dag Halvor Nylander, who engaged in intensive high-level efforts to seek a negotiated settlement to the controversy.

The Secretary-General has carefully analysed developments in 2017 in the good offices process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy. Accordingly, the Secretary-General has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.

In reaching this decision, the Secretary-General has also reached the conclusion that Guyana and Venezuela could benefit from the continued good offices of the United Nations through a complementary process established on the basis of the powers of the Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, remains committed to accompany both States as they seek to overcome their differences regarding this border controversy.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General
New York, 30 January 2018

The following statement was today issued by the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs





Guyana welcomes the decision of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to refer the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Guyana has always held the view that the ICJ is the appropriate forum for the peaceful and definitive settlement of the controversy, and is pleased that that view has prevailed under the process developed by both Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Guyana will not allow factors extraneous to the controversy to influence its referral to the Court, but it will continue the advancement of peaceful relations with Venezuela whose people are the brothers and sisters of Guyanese. In this context, Guyana acknowledges the Secretary-General’s suggestions for the immediate future.

That Guyana has stood firm against Venezuela’s attempt to re-open a territorial boundary settled and recognised for half a century before its independence, and done so despite the manifest unequal strengths between the two countries, is to our national credit. Guyana, as one of the world’s small developing countries, is pleased that its reliance on the rule of law internationally has been the underpinning of its national sovereignty.



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