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UN takes no immediate action on Guyana-Venezuela dispute; Diplomats urge respect for international law

Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2023. 7:39 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: In a recent development reported by Caribbean Loop News, the United Nations Security Council did not take immediate action in a closed emergency meeting held late Friday, following a request from Guyana. This meeting was convened in response to Venezuela’s controversial referendum, which claims the oil- and mineral-rich Essequibo region, constituting a significant part of its neighboring country, Guyana.

During the session, diplomats emphasized the importance of adhering to international law, including the UN Charter’s mandate for all member states to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations. Additionally, there was a consensus on the need for both parties to honor the International Court of Justice’s orders and recognize its role in resolving such disputes.

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A potential press statement was considered and circulated among the council members. However, several diplomats mentioned the necessity to consult with their respective capitals before proceeding further. These comments were made under the condition of anonymity due to the private nature of the consultations.

The UN political chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, opened Friday’s meeting with a briefing on the Guyana-Venezuela dispute. Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Hugh Hilton Todd, in his letter to the Security Council president, accused Venezuela of violating the UN Charter by attempting to annex its territory. He outlined the historical context of the dispute, tracing it back to an arbitration in 1899 between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, and the subsequent formal demarcation of their border in 1905. Todd highlighted that Venezuela accepted this boundary for over 60 years, only to challenge the 1899 arbitration in 1962. This dispute has escalated, particularly after ExxonMobil’s 2015 announcement of significant oil finds off the coast of Guyana.

The situation intensified following Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent referendum. In this referendum, Venezuelan voters were asked about establishing a state in the disputed Essequibo region, granting citizenship to its residents, and rejecting the jurisdiction of the United Nations’ top court in this bilateral disagreement. Following the referendum, Maduro ordered state-owned companies to start exploration in the contested region.

The Essequibo region, spanning 61,600 square miles (159,500 square kilometers), represents two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. However, Venezuela has historically claimed Essequibo as its own, citing its inclusion within Venezuelan boundaries during the Spanish colonial era.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali accused Venezuela of defying a December 1 ruling by the International Court of Justice. The court had ordered Venezuela not to take any action until it reached a decision on the competing claims, a process expected to take years. In response, the Venezuelan government condemned Ali’s statement, accusing Guyana of irresponsibility and alleging it allowed the US military’s Southern Command to enter the disputed Essequibo region.

This ongoing dispute, marked by historical complexities and recent escalations, continues to pose a challenge to regional stability and international diplomatic efforts.

 

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