Guyana rules out talks with Venezuela until fishermen released
President of Guyana, Dr Irfaan Ali

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Government has made it clear that it will only have bilateral discussions with Venezuela once the Nicolas Maduro Administration releases the Guyanese fishermen illegally detained in the Spanish-speaking nation last week.

President Irfaan Ali said while Guyana was not averse to engaging Venezuela in bilateral matters in which the two countries have a common interest, including the increasing number of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Guyana and COVID-19, those issues can only be discussed if Venezuela desists from any further acts of aggression against Guyana, starting with releasing the 12 seamen.

The Guyanese leader said he had received a letter from United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in which he acknowledged that the bilateral relationship between the two countries is broader than the controversy, and “should both the Government of Guyana and Venezuela wish to avail themselves to his good offices role to address other important issues, he remains available for that purpose”.

“However, such discussions, while welcomed, especially if the UN secretary general wishes to play a good offices role, will have to be preceded by a clear demonstration by Venezuela that it will desist from any further acts of aggression against Guyana, starting with the release of the Guyanese fishermen and their vessels,” Ali added in an address to the nation over the weekend.

At the same time, the president made it clear that the Government was doing everything within its power to vigorously protect Guyana's territorial integrity, and that the country will not bend to threats to its 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…We will continue to look for a peaceful solution to Venezuela's aggression,” he said.

To this end, President Ali said the Government will follow the legal process in addressing the border issue which is being heard at the International Court of Justice.

“We believe international law and independent international jurists of the highest calibre offer the most credible and definitive way in which to put an end to the Venezuelan contention. Therefore, we will continue to pursue that course,” he said.

The Government said that on January 21, a Venezuelan naval vessel intercepted and detained two fishing vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, and their 12 crew, while they were within Guyana's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The crew remains detained aboard their vessels, under security, in Port Guiria, Venezuela.

Chief of staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Brigadier Godfrey Bess said the Venezuelan incursion into Guyana's EEZ was first observed a week before that incident, on January 14.

He said the Venezuelan vessels may have been there “intermittently” and their mode of movement has been approximately 60 nautical miles east of the median line and approximately 25 nautical miles from Guyana's coast.

“The last time they were seen there was on January 27, and we continue to log their operations and inform Guyana's Foreign Ministry of their operations,” Brigadier Bess said.

He also said the GDF would continue to conduct boat and aerial patrols in Guyana's EEZ.

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