Published On: Wed, Jan 31st, 2018

UN secretary-general refers Guyana-Venezuela border controversy to ICJ

gutteresNEW YORK - The secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres, has decided to refer the controversy arising out of the claim by Venezuela to Guyana’s territory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The longstanding border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that an arbitral award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void. In the so-called Geneva Agreement of 1966, Guyana and Venezuela conferred upon the secretary-general the power and responsibility to choose a means of peaceful settlement from amongst those contemplated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Geneva Agreement also provides that if the means so chosen does not lead to a solution of the controversy, the secretary-general is to choose another means of settlement.

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon communicated to the parties on 15 December 2016 a framework for the resolution of the border controversy based on his conclusions on what would constitute the most appropriate next steps.

Notably, he concluded that the good offices process, which had been conducted since 1990, would continue for one final year, until the end of 2017, with a strengthened mandate of mediation.

He also reached the conclusion that if, by the end of 2017, his successor, Guterres, concluded that significant progress had not been made towards arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he would choose the ICJ as the next means of settlement, unless the governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly requested that he refrain from doing so.

In early 2017, Guterres appointed a personal representative, Dag Halvor Nylander, who engaged in intensive high-level efforts to seek a negotiated settlement to the controversy.

“The secretary-general has carefully analysed developments in 2017 in the good offices process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy. Accordingly, the secretary-general has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“In reaching this decision, the secretary-general has also reached the conclusion that Guyana and Venezuela could benefit from the continued good offices of the United Nations through a complementary process established on the basis of the powers of the secretary-general under the Charter of the United Nations.

“The secretary-general, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, remains committed to accompany both states as they seek to overcome their differences regarding this border controversy,” Dujarric said.

The government of Guyana welcomed the decision of the secretary general

In special address to the nation on Tuesday evening, President David Granger said, “Guyana remains confident in the correctness of its case. Guyana looks forward to the reaffirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award before the International Court of Justice.”

Granger noted that Guyana’s position has always been that the basis of the controversy is a legal question, which should be resolved peacefully and conclusively through a legal process.

“Guyana will take all the necessary steps to ensure that its national patrimony will be protected for all time. Guyana remains committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for international agreements and treaties and to maintaining friendly relations with its neighbours,” he said.

“Guyana will pursue the path ahead in furtherance of the preservation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity with quiet confidence and with the assurance in ever improving relations with its neighbours, Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela,” he added.

However, on Wednesday, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela rejected the UN decision to send the issue to the ICJ, no doubt realising that the court is unlikely to reverse the decision of the 1899 arbitration. Therefore, Venezuela had preferred to keep the issue as a bilateral one.

“The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, faithful to its historical tradition and in accordance with the Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace, reiterates its firm disposition to defend the territorial integrity of our Homeland and maintain political negotiation based on the 1966 Geneva Accord, as the only way to reach a peaceful solution, practical and satisfactory for both parties and in favor of our Peoples, ” an excerpt from a statement issued by Maduro read.

Suriname, which also claims parts of Guyana, has so far remained silent on the UN decision to send the Guyana/Venezuela border dispute to the ICJ. Suriname has become a close ally of Venezuela.


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