Regional leaders reiterate support for Guyana and Belize in border disputes

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Regional leaders reiterate support for Guyana and Belize in border disputes

Saturday, October 31, 2020

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have reiterated their “firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty, and territorial integrity” of Guyana and Belize in their territorial disputes with Venezuela and Guatemala respectively.

The regional leaders during their one-day summit on Thursday said they had received updates on the developments surrounding the two Caricom member countries.

In the case of Belize, the leaders noted the extension of the time limits for the submission of the Memorials and the Counter Memorials to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by Belize and Guatemala, respectively.

They urged Belize, Guatemala and the Organisation of American States (OAS) to continue implementing fully the Confidence Building Measures that have been in place since 2005, pending the resolution of Guatemala's claim at the ICJ.

Heads of Government noted that the undertaking by both countries and the Organisation of American States (OAS) to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of co-operation for the Sarstoon River is still outstanding, and called on both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to this end.

“They also expressed support for the significant role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute arising from Guatemala's claims on Belize, and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone,” according to a communique issued Friday following the discussions. The communique added that the regional leaders had also “re-emphasised their steadfast support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize”.

The two countries have had a long standing border dispute and have voted in separate referendums to ask the ICJ in The Hague to make a decision on the dispute.

Guatemala recognised the independence of Belize at the beginning of the 1990s, but it never accepted the borders and continues to claim 11,000 square kilometres, about half the territory of the former British colony.

With regard to the Guyana-Venezuela border issue, the regional leaders said they had taken note of the ICJ hearing by virtual process on June 30 this year.

“A decision is awaited. If the Court affirms its jurisdiction, Guyana will proceed to the next stage of its pleadings as to why the 1899 Arbitral Award is the valid demarcation of the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, thus providing for a final resolution of the controversy between the two countries as determined by the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

The leaders said that they were reiterating “their full support for this judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between Guyana and Venezuela”.

Heads of Government further reiterated their "firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Guyana.”

In 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General announced that in the absence of significant progress towards a solution of the border issue between the two States by the end of 2017, and unless both parties jointly request that he refrain from doing so, he would choose the ICJ as the next means of settlement.

Once jurisdiction has been ascertained; Guyana is asking the court to uphold the 1899 Arbitral Award, that the 1899 award is binding upon Guyana and Venezuela and that the boundaries established by the award are valid and binding to both States.

It is also seeking to have Guyana retain full sovereignty over the Essequibo and that Venezuela enjoys full sovereignty over the territory west of the Essequibo region.

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