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Guyana, Venezuela reach agreement to calm tensions over Essequibo region

Posted: Monday, December 18, 2023. 2:48 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: While not there in person, Prime Minister John Briceño and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay have reiterated Belize’s support for Guyana in its ongoing territorial dispute with the neighboring Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Following a successfully carried referendum, Venezuela began making moves to assert control over the disputed Essequibo region, which covers two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. The dispute is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as is Belize’s with Guatemala.

Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, the president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), hosted counterparts Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from which an agreement was reached following days of tension.

The countries agreed that directly or indirectly, they will not threaten or use force against one another in circumstances including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two states and that such controversies will be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966.

Courtenay told reporters that while and the Prime Minister were both invited to attend, they were already committed to hosting president-elect of Guatemala Bernardo Arevalo on Friday and there was not enough time to get to St Vincent and back – but they appreciated how the two sides worked out their differences: “We’re very happy with the fact that President Maduro and President Ali sat down. We are very happy with the outcome where both parties, primarily Venezuela pledged not to use force to resolve any dispute. They committed to the ICJ process, at least Guyana did and they acknowledged that their dispute should be solved in a peaceful way and we see this as a beginning to reducing the verbal war of words that was taking place…I hope that the parties, as we expect, act in good faith on their commitments. There is a promise to meet within six months and I think that is also very positive. So that was a very good day for CARICOM and for CELAC.”

CARICOM has consistently supported Belize and Guyana in resolving their territorial disputes.

In Belize’s case, it has been unsuccessful in obtaining an agreement on the use and enjoyment of the Sarstoon River, the natural boundary between nations, to prevent aggression against the likes of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) during their expeditions there and to control illegal fishing and other activities in the area.


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