— denounces Maduro’s latest decree as aggressive, says ICJ is the legal and peaceful way forward
VIOLATIONS of international law will not be tolerated by the international community, renowned Guyana-born diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders has said in response to Venezuela’s recent claims to the seas and seabed adjacent to the coast west of the Essequibo River, which belong to Guyana.
“The international community has to be brought on board soon, because the Maduro Government and Opposition have to understand that the international community will not tolerate violations of international law,” Sir Ronald said during an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday.
President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro on January 7, 2021 issued a decree claiming Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.
While this decree is yet to be gazetted or elaborated on, Sir Ronald said: “What they put out informally is quite troubling, and it points to violations of international law. But, one has to wait to see how far they are going before you make a strong statement on this.”
President Irfaan Ali has since affirmed that Venezuela’s attempt to claim for itself the seas and seabed adjacent to the coast west of the Essequibo River will receive no legal regard from any other State in the world, and moreso Guyana.
Regrettably, by decreeing that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two fundamental principles of international law have been violated, President Ali said during an address to the nation on Saturday.
The first violation, as outlined by Guyana’s President, he said, is that no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether land or maritime.
President Ali contended that the fixing of an international boundary under international law can only result from an agreement between neighbouring States, or a binding determination by an international court or arbitral tribunal.
“Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to attempt, unilaterally, to fix both its land and maritime boundaries with Guyana is a legal nullity, which cannot, and will not be respected by any other State in the world, including Guyana,” the Head of State affirmed.
The second violation of fundamental international law referenced by President Ali, is based on the fact that under well-established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that says, “the land dominates the sea”.
This means that sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the sea and seabed emanate from title to the land that forms the coast to which those seas and seabed are adjacent. Since Guyana has sovereign rights over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows, consequently, that only this country can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed.
Sir Ronald said that President Ali was right in pointing out the violations of international law, but noted that the decree has not yet been gazetted, so the full extent of what Venezuela is suggesting is not yet known.
However, Guyana has since shown that it is taking no chances, with President Ali informing the nation that he is alerting the international community, including sister states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of the recent illegal actions by Venezuela.
“Well, I think the President has taken all the right steps; he is informing the international community of this act, which is already a violation of international law… Whatever the extent of the violation of international law, it is a violation, and it is important that the international community be alerted,” Sir Ronald reasoned.
He reiterated that it is also important for Guyana to inform the Commonwealth and European Union so as to make sure they understand that this is a troubling development, upon which everyone has to keep a close eye.
The “troubling development” at reference comes on the heels of the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana, Venezuela border controversy case.
Guyana is confident that the international court will resolve the issue in its favour, and that this will also settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed.
“I remind that sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, whose validity and legally binding character Guyana is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold unequivocally,” President Ali affirmed.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary (ag) for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael Kozak, has said that the U.S. supports the ICJ’s ruling that it has jurisdiction in the Guyana, Venezuela territorial border issue, which is the legal and peaceful way forward.
“Maduro’s aggressive claims don’t change this; they only show the world his disregard for his neighbours and international law,” Kozak asserted in a post on his official Twitter page.
Additionally, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch also reiterated the North American country’s call for a legal, peaceful resolution to the border controversy.
Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon in a statement on Sunday urged Venezuela to utilise the ICJ as the forum to present its case, and to cease and desist from issuing these arbitrary decrees.
“This decree is mischievous, illegal, and can only serve to foment tensions on an issue that is being peaceably resolved in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Venezuela, as a Member State of the United Nations, is bound by the jurisdiction and rulings of the ICJ,” Harmon said in the statement.
The A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition, he avowed, stands resolute, and in solidarity with any reasonable action that the people of Guyana are likely to embark on to safeguard Guyana’s sovereignty.
The Citizenship Initiative also joined President Ali in rejecting Maduro’s ‘provocative’ decree, claiming sovereignty over Essequibo.
“We fully support the government’s position and look forward to the international court decision. We expect it to be in favour of Guyana and recognition and validity of long standing ownership of the land and maritime space will be affirmed,” the political party said in post on its Facebook page on Saturday.
Encouragement, they said, is given to all Guyanese to stand united in protecting the nation’s territory and national sovereignty.