Venezuela says move to ICJ on border controversy unenforceable

-proposes restart of diplomatic contacts for resolution

While reiterating its rejection of the referral of its border controversy with Guyana to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for adjudication, which it has dubbed “unenforceable,” Venezuela has proposed that the two countries restart diplomatic contacts to reach a resolution.

Last Thursday, Guyana filed an application with the ICJ to confirm the validity and binding effect of the Arbitral Award of 1899 on boundary between the two countries, following the decision by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to choose the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy, which stems from Venezuela’s contention that the award was null and void.

But in a statement issued on Friday, Venezuela’s Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs stated that Guyana’s resort to a judicial settlement is both “unacceptable” and “unenforceable” and it noted that it does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court as binding.

It said it had sent a Diplomatic Note to Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 28th, 2018, making it aware that Venezuela does not acknowledge the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that a judicial settlement be used to peacefully settle the border controversy between the two countries.

Venezuela has argued that in making the recommendation, the Secretary-General exceeded the powers granted by the figure of Good Offices–mutually agreed upon by the parties–and contravenes the spirit, intent and purpose of the Geneva Agreement of February 17th, 1966.

It has also noted that it expressly objects to judicial settlement as a means for peaceful resolution of the controversy since it claims that it violates the preamble of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which strictly establishes that the issue must be “amicably settled in a mutually acceptable manner.”

“The aforementioned mechanism also violates Article 1, given that it does not lead to “satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute,”” it further says, before adding that it has informed Guyana that “resorting to a judicial settlement to settle the dispute is unacceptable, unfruitful and unenforceable, given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as binding, and in this sense, it has always been consistent with its historical position of expressly reserving or not signing any international legal instrument containing arbitration clauses that may grant compulsory jurisdiction to such Court.”

As a result, Venezuela said it proposed to resume diplomatic contacts to allow for a joint assessment of the possibility of continuing with the Good Offices process.

“…In order to make progress in the choice of the peaceful dispute settlement mechanism, by mutual consent, under the Geneva Agreement of 1966, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has proposed to the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to resume diplomatic contacts, allowing to reach a practical and satisfactory solution of the territorial dispute. Such contacts will also allow to jointly assess the possibility of continuing with the Good Offices figure, under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, all this within an environment of cordiality and constructive and peaceful dialogue,” the statement concluded.

According to a statement issued by Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the filing of the award, the UN Secretary-General’s authority to choose the ICJ – based in The Hague – as a means of resolving the controversy is based on the Geneva Agreement of 1966, which was negotiated just before Guyana gained independence.

Venezuela’s interpretation of the Agreement ignores the fact that under Article 33 of the UN Charter, the UN Secretary General is empowered to select “judicial settlement” as a means of settlement under Article IV(2) of the Geneva Agreement.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, in filing the application, said Guyana has respected the Secretary-General’s decision and placed its faith in the ICJ to “resolve the controversy in accordance with its Statute and jurisprudence, based on the fundamental principles of international law, including the sanctity of treaties, the maintenance of settled boundaries and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.”

The statement said that in its application to the Holland-based court, Guyana highlighted that Venezuela had for more than 60 years “consistently recognised and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 Map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the Award.”

The statement added that Venezuela had only altered its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and “had threatened not to recognise the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.”

According to the statement, Guyana’s application notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to substantiate its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, “it has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

On January 30th, 2018, Guterres concluded that the Good Offices process, which the two countries had engaged in for almost 30 years, had failed to achieve a solution to the controversy and therefore chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement.

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