Guyana, Venezuela foreign ministers discuss border issue
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Hilton Todd on Wednesday held talks with his Venezuelan counterpart, Yvan Gill, as tensions between the two countries heightened in the past 24 hours over the ownership of the Essequibo region.
A statement by Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said that the telephone discussions had been initiated by Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana Carlos Amador Pérez Silva.
“Minister Todd expressed concern over the recent actions emanating from Caracas over the last 24 hours which were in direct violation of the Order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 1, 2023,” according to the brief statement issued by the ministry.
It said Todd reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the resolution of the controversy through the ongoing judicial process and encouraged Venezuela to participate in the case before the court.
“Minister Todd further reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the respect for international law and the need for the maintenance of peace and security in the region. He encouraged respect for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
Political observers say the campaign to take ownership of Essequibo is part of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s attempt to boost his popularity ahead of next year’s election.
Venezuela has claimed the huge territory for decades — even as its 160,000 square kilometres (62,000 square miles) represent more than two-thirds of Guyana, and its population of 125,000 is one-fifth Guyana’s total.
Earlier, the Guyana Government said it would take the border issue with Venezuela to the United Nations after it described as “unsettling developments” the “unlawful claim by Caracas” to the Essequibo.
President Irfaan Ali said that Maduro on Tuesday night announced several measures which his Government intends to take in enforcing the outcome of the referendum held on December 3, 2023.
“As I made clear from the date the referendum was first announced, this is a direct threat to Guyana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence, and in violation of fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN and OAS Charters,” Ali said.
Maduro announced that foreign companies working in the disputed Guyanese county of Essequibo would have to withdraw within three months, asserting his right to do so after Venezuelan voters backed the December 3 referendum to seeking ownership of the area.
“I propose a special law to prohibit all companies that work under Guyana concessions from any transaction. They have three months to withdraw” once his proposal is approved,” Maduro added.
While Maduro hasn’t yet dispatched any military forces to enforce his demands, he said he would be creating a military unit for the disputed territory but that it would be based in a neighbouring Venezuelan state.
Last week, the ICJ ruled that Venezuela must not take any action to seize the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo.
In its ruling, the court issued a number of provisional measures that “unanimously pending a final decision in the case, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action, which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Cooperative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area”.