On the 50th Anniversary of the historic signing of the Geneva Agreement the Guyana Government is accusing Venezuela of trying to change the pact and reminded that it remains what it always was, the means to bring closure to Caracas’ “baseless contentions.”
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government said that this year is the 50th Anniversary of Guyana’s Independence and it is not co-incidental that today is also the 50th Anniversary of the Geneva Agreement; for the Geneva Meeting represented the last failed effort from Caracas to prevent Guyana’s Independence.
The Geneva Agreement was concluded between Britain and Venezuela. Guiana only became a full party on attaining Independence. “That is what the Agreement was all
about – Guyana’s Independence. Until then, Venezuela had indulged in an argument with Britain to maintain the state of colonialism in British Guiana until the boundary with Venezuela was changed. The Geneva Agreement ended that un-Bolivarian argument. Guyana would be free with its borders intact. That is why the Geneva Agreement is worth commemorating. It is part of the founding instruments of Guyana’s freedom,” the statement read.
According to the Ministry as part of the future, it specifically limited the nature of any ongoing discussion: Firstly, the only discussion thereafter under the Geneva Agreement would be about Venezuela’s contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award under the Treaty of Washington ‘was null and void’.
Secondly, that the forum of discussion would be a 4-year Mixed Commission between Guyana and Venezuela and if that failed to find agreement, such other machinery as the Parties agreed upon; and thirdly, failing such agreement, Venezuela’s argument about the nullity of the 1899 Award, would be settled by a means chosen by the United Nations Secretary General from processes taken from Article 33 of the UN Charter, ending with judicial settlement.
“That is where we are now. The Secretary General is seized of the matter. He is aware of Guyana’s position and has put forward proposals to both parties in the context of his powers under the Geneva Agreement. Guyana is cooperating fully with the Secretary General in the context outlined. What the Geneva Agreement offers Venezuela is the opportunity to establish that the 117 year old Award – accepted, demarcated and respected by Venezuela for over 60 years is a nullity,” the Ministry asserted. It added that not surprisingly, Venezuela has not been able to do so over the first 50 years of the Geneva Agreement’s life. “What they are doing now is to try to change the Geneva Agreement itself. But that is not possible. The Geneva Agreement remains what it always was, the means to bring closure to Venezuela’s baseless contentions.”
Only last week renowned Guyanese Diplomat Sir Shridath Ramphal asserted that the only available means towards resolution of the age-old controversy between Guyana and Venezuela is to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Sir Shridath was at the time part of a panel discussion on the Geneva Agreement. That panel also comprised Ambassadors Cedric Joseph and Ronald Austin. The Guyanese diplomat, who was present upon the signing of the Agreement on February 17, 1966, said he would like to see a proper conclusion to the matter, and more specifically, he “would like to see the fulfillment of the Geneva Agreement”.
“That article that calls on the [UN] Secretary General to act has come. I would like to see that activated. We have begun the discussions with the Secretary General. I would like to see that taken to completion and the Secretary General hand the resolution of the issue over to the International Court of Justice,” said Sir Shridath Ramphal.
He said that having closure to the controversy would mean a lot “for the world; for the rule of law; for the sanctity of treaties, which is of importance to the whole world. It would mean everything for relations between Guyana and Venezuela.”
Sir Shridath explained that the signing of the Geneva Agreement was in a sense an essential part of a “larger picture of Guyana’s Independence”, as it was premised around the outrageous claims by Venezuela to more than half of Guyana.
President David Granger also noted during a meeting with Sir Shridath that even as Venezuela continues to claim Guyana’s territory, it has also launched a “propaganda offensive,” purporting that the Geneva Agreement invalidated the 1899 Tribunal Agreement. “There is nothing in the Geneva Agreement, which suggests an invalidation of an international agreement, by which borders have been drawn 116 years ago… Nothing in this agreement deprives Guyana of any territory and this is the message we are sending, but in addition to that we are looking to the United Nations Secretary-General to perform the functions, which have been given to him under the Geneva Agreement and bring this matter to a swift and successful conclusion. We are quite fed-up of the Venezuelan aggression and harassment,” President Granger said.
The Geneva Agreement allows for the UN SG to choose, as one of his options, a juridical settlement to the dispute. Guyana has indicated that it prefers such a settlement. “Venezuela has not agreed to the line that Guyana has taken, that is, to proceed to juridical settlement and Venezuela is attempting to use the observance of the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Agreement to falsely convey the notion that the Geneva Agreement somehow or the other invalidates the 1899 Accord,” President Granger said.
The Head of State noted that the despite the Secretary General’s intervention at a meeting held on the side-lines of the United Nations General Council last year, Venezuela is still to Accredit Guyana’s Ambassador to that country. He added that Venezuela’s continued claims to Guyana’s territory have limited national development. “A lot of the actions that the Venezuelans have taken over the past years have driven investors out. This must be the last year that Guyana has to suffer the indignities and aggressions of Venezuela. We look forward to having a juridical settlement so that we can pursue the development of our natural resources,” President Granger said.