KINGSTOWN, St Vincent – Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves will be travelling to Venezuela on Saturday where he will hold talks with President Nicolas Maduro on the ongoing border dispute with Guyana.
“If you ask me any question as to if I am going to Venezuela to have any discussion on this, I wouldn’t answer you. I’ll just tell you that I am going to Venezuela,” Gonsalves told a news conference on Friday, adding that the border dispute between Georgetown and Caracas “is one which troubles me greatly.
“I just want to see the principles of international law followed, that there be peace, there be no use or threat of force in this particular controversy,” said Gonsalves, whose ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration is a close ally of the Venezuelan government.
“And, as Guyana pursues its case before the International Court of Justice, I am hopeful that both sides would still have a conversation - if not on the specific issue of the border controversy, on other matters - … including respect for international law, the principles of international law and that no force or threat of force,” Gonsalves said, noting that both countries are neighbours.
Earlier this week, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, expressed concern at the recent escalation of tension between Guyana and Venezuela saying he trusts that both parties “will demonstrate good faith and avoid any action that would aggravate or extend the controversy”.
On Wednesday, the Guyana government denied Venezuela’s claim of joint efforts by the United States and Georgetown to increase a military presence along the border with Guyana with Caracas, also accusing President Irfaan Ali of continuing to “refuse to engage in direct dialogue” with the South American country on the border issue.
“The Foreign Ministry is not aware of that. That appears to be the usual posture of Venezuela which is to mislead and to create division in the region and I think they’re failing at that miserably,” Foreign Minister Hugh Todd said in response to an official statement issued by Caracas on the issue.
Todd said Caracas was spewing its usual propaganda, adding “This is what Caracas is engaging in - a lot of misinformation and a lot of propaganda and this is for their local consumption to build momentum in lead up to their so-called referendum that they’re planning on the 3rd December”.
He urged Caracas to pay attention to the motion that was passed by the National Assembly on Monday, denouncing the referendum that seeks a popular vote on the annexation of Guyana’s Essequibo County and non-participation in the International Court of Justice adjudication of Guyana’s case on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award on the land boundary between the two countries.
The statement by Venezuela comes less than 48 hours after the Guyana parliament, in a rare case of national unity, formally rejected Venezuela’s claims to ownership of the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo through a referendum on December 3, with both government and opposition legislators denouncing the move by Caracas.
Guyana has already asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to block several questions being proposed by Venezuela, which is seeking a popular vote in support of the South American government’s stance of not recognising the ICJ to settle the decades-old border issue.
Venezuela’s planned referendum and its approved questions for the referendum later this year have set off a wave of criticisms, with the Guyana government accusing Venezuela of trying to annex parts of the country’s territory in contravention with international law.
The 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom), the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat and and the Organization of American States (OAS) have also rejected the referendum stating that international law strictly prohibits the Government of one State from unilaterally seizing, annexing or incorporating the territory of another state and noted that the referendum will open the door to the possible violation of this fundamental tenet of international law.
During his news conference, Gonsalves also described as “entirely unacceptable” the situation in Gaza, where Israel has been responding to an attack on its territory by Hamas on October 7, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people on both sides.
Gonsalves said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is adopting the position of UN Secretary-General that Gaza has become a graveyard for the Palestinian children.
“Even if Israel establishes a right to … self-defence in respect of what happened on October 7 with Hamas in Israel, self-defence cannot be disproportionate.
“If it is self-defence, you can’t have revenge and genocide as part of self-defence and you cannot impose collective punishment.”
Gonsalves said these things are illegal in international humanitarian law and international human rights law and have been pronounced on by the United Nations “and the relevant entities that study these matters”.