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International News: Guyana accuses Venezuela of military movements near border, contravening peace agreement

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2024. 9:51 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: The Government of Guyana has raised alarms over what it describes as aggressive military movements by Venezuela near its eastern border, citing satellite imagery provided by Western allies as evidence. This development, announced on Saturday, is seen as a direct breach of the peace agreement, known as the Argyle Agreement, signed in December in the Caribbean aimed at de-escalating longstanding border tensions between the two South American nations.

Foreign Minister Hugh Todd and Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud have expressed Guyana’s concern over these movements across the river border, underscoring a potential escalation in the decades-long dispute over the demarcation lines. The contention primarily revolves around the Essequibo region, a mineral-rich area that constitutes about two-thirds of Guyana’s surface area, which Venezuela claims.

The officials criticized the Venezuelan administration under President Nicolás Maduro for not adhering to the commitments made under the Argyle Agreement, facilitated by Brazil and Caribbean governments on the island of St. Vincent. This agreement was supposed to halt the use of force or threats between the two countries. “Guyana has a history of entering bilateral discussions in good faith. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about our neighbour to the west,” Persaud remarked, highlighting the disappointment with Venezuela’s actions.

The tension has been further compounded by satellite images released by the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), indicating Venezuela’s military infrastructure development on Ankoko Island and nearby Punta Barima. These areas are of strategic importance and their development signals a possible preparation for asserting Venezuela’s claim over the disputed region.

Guyana maintains that the border issue was resolved by an international boundary commission in 1899, a stance Venezuela has contested for over 60 years, claiming the commission unfairly deprived it of the Essequibo region. The matter has escalated to the World Court for a definitive ruling, though Venezuela favors direct bilateral negotiations.

Recent accusations from the Venezuelan defense ministry claim Guyana’s actions and media portrayal threaten the peace accord, specifically targeting the involvement of US oil giant ExxonMobil in the region. ExxonMobil’s operations, producing significant daily oil outputs from Guyanese waters, have been cited by Venezuela as part of a collaborative effort with the US military, implying geopolitical and resource-based motivations behind the support for Guyana.

In the midst of these developments, a proposed summit between Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and President Maduro is expected in March to address the border issue directly. This meeting comes as the United States has shown increasing support for Guyana, including military overflights to monitor Venezuelan activities, underscoring the international dimension of this regional dispute.

As both nations stand on the precipice of further conflict, the international community watches closely, hoping for a peaceful resolution that respects the agreements made and the sovereignty of each nation.

 

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