President Ali apprises UN of ‘overt threats’ from Venezuela
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President Dr. Irfaan Ali, during his maiden address to the United Nations’ General Assembly
President Dr. Irfaan Ali, during his maiden address to the United Nations’ General Assembly

–says law-defying agreements not basis of mediating harmony

IN a powerful address to the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, drew attention to the “continued overt threats” facing Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

In his call for strengthened international relations, the Guyanese Head of State referenced a recent agreement which was signed in Mexico City by contending internal factions in Venezuela, as a means of renewing a baseless claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, more specifically, the Essequibo region.

“We have responded in clear terms. And I repeat our response now in these hallowed halls in which nations of the world meet in peace and co-operation. Guyana cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for the settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences,” President Ali asserted.

He told his fellow world leaders that while his government welcomes efforts to bring about domestic harmony within Venezuela, agreements that defy international law and processes can be no basis for mediating such harmony.

It was only on September 6, 2021, that the Heads of Delegation of the Venezuelan Government and the opposition’s Unity Platform of Venezuela agreed to ratify Venezuela’s purported rights over the Essequibo, and signed an agreement to that effect, in Mexico.

This agreement was rejected by the Government of Guyana, and in a statement issued via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, it was noted that the country cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences.

President Ali, in his address to the UN, said pointedly that Guyana does not promote the use of violence or threats to settle disputes.

He reminded the 76th UNGA that in a 1966 Agreement signed in Geneva, Venezuela consented to allow the UN Secretary-General to decide on the means of settlement of this controversy.

A decision was then taken by Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for the matter to be taken to the International Court of Justice.

“Both Parties are, therefore, bound by the court’s jurisdiction and ultimate decision,” President Ali posited.

In March 2018, Guyana filed its application in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking an affirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the international boundary that it established. The ICJ ruled on December 18, 2020, that it has jurisdiction to hear the border controversy case.

Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid, and that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.

A report from Energy Company, S&P Global Platts, however, related that Venezuela, in its agreement, rejects the ICJ’s declaration of jurisdiction over the issue, and urged Guyana to engage in direct negotiations.

“We will call on Guyana to resume the path of negotiations in order to reach an agreement on the territory,” representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Jorge Rodríguez, was reported as saying.

Venezuela has said, for the longest while, that it is not interested in having this matter resolved by the court. And from all indications, Venezuela early this year seemed bent on arbitrarily laying claim to Guyana’s territory, with its naval forces intruding on Guyana’s maritime space.

Increased activity by Venezuela’s naval vessels and other forces in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) started after Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, issued a decree claiming Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.

Despite outright condemnation of Venezuela’s claims and global recognition of Guyana’s sovereign rights over the contested area, a naval vessel attached to the Bolivarian Republic, just days after the issuance of the decree, entered Guyana’s territory and abducted 12 fishermen, who have since been released.

A peaceful conclusion to its border controversy with Venezuela remains Guyana’s aim, but Dr. Ali, Guyana’s Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, had previously affirmed that his nation will not cower in the face of threats against national security.

“As President of our beloved country, my single most important responsibility is to keep the Guyanese people safe. It is the first thing I think about when I wake [up] in the morning. It is the last thing on my mind at night. And my working day is consumed by it.

“But I want no mistake made about it: my government is doing all in its power to vigorously protect our people’s health and our country’s territorial integrity. Just as we will not relent in the battle against COVID-19, so will we not bend to threats to our national security…we may be a small country, but we are a proud people. We have no military might, but we have moral and legal right. We pick fights with no one, but we will resist threats from anyone,” President Ali said early this year.

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