Published On: Mon, Jul 6th, 2015

Guyana says it will continue relations with Venezuela despite border dispute

david_granger7GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Guyana will continue commercial and cultural relations with Venezuela, President David Granger has announced, despite heightened tension between the South American neighbours caused by the rekindled maritime dispute.

Following intense discussions with his CARICOM counterparts during their meeting in Barbados, the president said he was convinced that CARICOM remains committed to ensuring that the region remains a zone of peace.

“I think the news that I take back to Guyana will be good. I think the Guyanese people could be satisfied in the solidarity of the Caribbean Community,” he said.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree on May 25, claiming sovereignty over Guyana’s territorial waters in the Essequibo region of the Atlantic Ocean. Maps created by Venezuela’s National Organisation for Rescue and Maritime Safety (ONSA), after the decree, indicate that the claim would include a large part of the Stabroek Block, where ExxonMobil discovered oil a month ago.

During the Barbados meeting, CARICOM Chairman Freundel Stuart led talks with the vice president of Venezuela, who reportedly committed to “maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region”.

Political and diplomatic pundits have said that the regional grouping has to tread carefully on the issue since almost all CARICOM countries, including Guyana, benefit from Venezuela’s energy alliance, Petro Caribe, while around half a dozen of them are members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, ALBA.

Venezuela, Guyana and other CARICOM countries are also members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC.

Additionally, Guyana is an original signatory to the Treaty of Chaguaramas that established CARICOM.

Stuart, the Barbados prime minister, alluded to the delicate nature of the negotiations during his post-meeting press conference.

“CARICOM stands firmly behind Guyana . . . CARICOM also has a good relationship with Venezuela and we are not about to try to disrupt the relationship or to pollute it in any way by anything that we as a community say or do. At the same time, we have to insist that Venezuela plays by the rules and there is no evidence to us that Venezuela is not so committed,” he said.

“What one has to aim for as the differences continue is a cooling of tempers whenever they flare up. We do not think that there can be any compromise so far as Guyana’s territorial borders is concerned,” the CARICOM chairman added, while maintaining that scope exists for an amicable resolution.

CARICOM officials have said they will continue to engage the two countries on the issue.

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