Talks on maritime boundaries with Barbados, T&T rest on settling border controversy with Venezuela

-Greenidge

Talks between Guyana and fellow Caricom countries Barbados and Trinidad on overlapping maritime boundaries would be dependent on the outcome of the World Court’s verdict on this country’s border controversy with Venezuela, according to Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge.

“But of course,” he said, during a press conference on Monday when asked if the resumption of discussions weighed heavily on the outcome of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) process. He said this even as he revealed that newly-elected Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley recently signalled her interest in engaging Guyana on the issue.

Greenidge, while noting that there has been no technical or political discussions between Guyana and the two countries on the maritime boundaries in the longest while, said that the Barbados Prime Minister “did say to us that they would be interested in looking at this matter.”

He reminded that the maritime boundaries between Guyana and these two Caricom nations overlap with each other and Venezuela.

“Therefore, it becomes difficult for us to simply negotiate a boundary with one partner when the boundaries will overlap with two or three. We can’t bind the third partner …and we have had problems already due to at least one of our Caricom neighbours carrying out negotiations with Venezuela, purporting to bind us in an arrangement in which we are conceding part of the territory that would normally be Guyanese territory,” he said.

Greenidge told reporters that government is wary about carrying out those discussions in the absence of a mechanism for resolving the boundaries with a third country which shares that sea space. He said President David Granger did indicate to Mottley that while Guyana is open to talks, the experts will have to “have a preliminary look.”

At the moment, Guyana is working to meet the November 19th deadline set by the ICJ for delivery of a memorial addressing the question of the court’s jurisdiction to hear the longstanding border controversy. Venezuela has rejected the proceedings filed by Guyana at ICJ.

Later, asked how Guyana will approach Trinidad and Barbados on the maritime boundary issue after the ICJ concludes its work, Greenidge said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) mechanism is an option that can be utilised. UNCLOS has been ratified by all three countries.

“They can do this bilaterally… and then trilaterally and, if necessary, they can do it within the aegis of the UNCLOS. In other words, the two countries can do it and then bring in a third and if they are having a difficulty for any reason, uncooperativeness or disagreement over the understanding and the rules, they then invite or ask UNCLOS to help them,” he said.

According to Greenidge, the UNCLOS does not empower two countries to negotiate space which belongs to three. “All three have to be involved …for them to be bound,” he stressed.

When it was pointed out that Trinidad and Venezuela already have their own arrangement, the minister stressed that this “can’t stand if they affect Guyana’s space.”

Meanwhile, Greenidge disclosed that the governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are on the verge of signing a framework agreement on cooperation in general and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on energy, which will touch on a variety of areas of cooperation and could have implications for the maritime space.  

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