– Developments relating to the Guyana-Venezuela Debate
Madam Chairman, allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the chairmanship of the Permanent Council. My Delegation has no doubt that your diplomatic skills, extensive experience, high intelligence and considerable charm will prove more than sufficient to guide us through the next three months. You may rely on our fullest cooperation and support.
My Delegation wishes to record its appreciation for the opportunity afforded to it to inform this Permanent Council of developments concerning the Guyana-Venezuela Debate of great concern to Guyana. We are equally grateful that the Address to the Nation, on January 9, 2021, was given by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, circulated for the information of the Member States.
As Member States know, a longstanding dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, stemming from Venezuela’s assertion, in 1962 in the context of the forthcoming Independence of Guyana, that the 1899 Arbitration Award, settling the border between British Guiana and Venezuela that, void.
Over the years, successive Governments and the people of Guyana have been united in the pursuit of international justice in order to maintain our territorial integrity and to resolve the dispute within the boundaries of international law.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is now used as the settlement method, having been selected by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency António Guterres who, under the 1966 Geneva Agreement, decided that no significant increase be made towards finding a solution to the decades-long debate, including under the framework of the Secretary General’s Good Office Process.
Against this backdrop, on March 29, 2018, Guyana filed an application, initiating proceedings against the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela in the ICJ. On December 18, 2020, the ICJ ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the case in relation to the validity of the Arbitration Award. As a result, the ICJ will proceed to hear the merits of the case and we are confident that the validity and legally binding character of the 1899 Arbitration Award will be unambiguously confirmed by the ICJ.
My Government is deeply saddened, however, on January 7, 2021, President of Venezuela, Mr Nicolás Maduro, issued a decree, which claimed the establishment of a new maritime territory in Venezuela entitled “Territory for the development of the Atlantic facade ”And claimed for Venezuela,“ sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed off the coast of Guyana, west of the Essequibo River ”. Unfortunately, Mr. Maduro announced that he had sent a letter on the same date to the UN Secretary General, denying the ICJ jurisdiction to adjudicate on the validity of the 1899 Arbitration Award.
I take this opportunity, on behalf of my Government, to reiterate the following facts and reaffirm Guyana’s position on these developments, which not only threaten our peace and security but the peace and security of our region.
In accordance with international law and the assertion of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Guyana completely rejects the decree issued by Mr. Maduro, as he explained on live television, on January 7th. In accordance with the 1899 Arbitration Award and as recognized by the international community, Guyana exercises full sovereignty over the land west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, the northwestern tip of Guyana, and, consequently, the adjacent maritime area. We therefore make the following two comments.
The first is that no State can unilaterally set its international borders, whether land or maritime. The imposition of an international border under international law can only result from an agreement between an adjoining States or a binding international court judgment or an arbitrary award.
The second observation concerns the principle that “the land dominates the sea”, meaning that sovereignty and sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed can derive title to the adjacent coast and ownership of it. As President Ali noted in his statement of January 9th, which is distributed to delegations, only Guyana can, therefore, enjoy exclusive sovereignty and sovereign rights over its neighboring sea and bed.
Mr. Maduro’s decree is utterly absurd and a decidedly innocent and hostile act. This effort by Venezuela to unilaterally seek to reshape its borders and annex Guyana’s land and maritime areas, is a legal void and an act of aggression, which no other State in the world should and cannot tolerate.
But worse, Madam Chairman. On Thursday January 21, 2021, two Guyanese registered fishing vessels – Lady Nayera and the Mermaid – operating off the coast of Waini Point within the Unique Economic Zone of Guyana, were intercepted by Venezuelan navy Comandante Hugo Chavez GC 24. Guyanese Civilians The captains were instructed to charter a course to Port Güiria, in Venezuela, where the boats and crews have been detained and to date not released. A Venezuelan ship was moving illegally within EEZ Guyana and a Border Zone when it intercepted, boarded and comandeered the Guyanese fishing vessels.
Guyana has registered to the Venezuela Government its protest, in the strongest possible terms, in these illegal and aggressive actions of the Venezuela Government against the State and the people of Guyana and demanded the release of the two Guyanese ships and their return on once their crews.
It is regrettable that the Government of the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela has chosen to resort to unilateral use of military force to assert its territorial claims and maritime jurisdiction – which Guyana considers to be totally baseless and contrary to international law – rather than to honor its commitment, under the 1966 Geneva Agreement, to have the dispute resolved in a peaceful, final and binding manner by the International Court of Justice. Guyana reiterates its call to Venezuela to participate fully in the proceedings of the ICJ, as required by international law, and receive its final Judgment, as it is required to do under the UN Charter.
Guyana is a country that loves peace, respects the rule of international law. We greatly appreciate the support we continue to receive from the international community, in particular, the CARICOM family and the OAS General Secretariat, as we seek to preserve our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
My Delegation will continue to include this Permanent Council on developments in relation to this issue.
Madam Chair, I thank you and our distinguished colleagues for your kind attention and understanding.