Venezuela and Guyana pledge not to use force

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali shake hands as they meet amid tensions over a border dispute, in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines December 14, 2023. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Venezuela and Guyana have reached an agreement to refrain from using force or making threats in their longstanding dispute over a border region with significant oil reserves. The contested territory of Essequibo gained international attention when Venezuela revived its claim to the land after the discovery of oil off the region’s coast in 2015.

During a tense meeting in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Mohamed Irfaan Ali of Guyana reiterated their commitment to “good neighbourliness” and “peaceful coexistence.” Both leaders declared that they would not resort to threats or force under any circumstances, even in the midst of existing controversies, but they failed to reach agreement on how to address the bitter dispute over the vast border region.

Maduro and Ali also decided to establish a joint commission comprising foreign ministers and officials to address matters related to Essequibo, a vast region covering most of Guyana. The two nations expressed their intention to reconvene in Brazil within the next three months to resolve any remaining issues.

Maduro, expressing satisfaction with the face-to-face meeting, thanked President Ali for his openness and willingness to engage in extensive dialogue. He underscored the value of raising historical truths and seeking resolution through Bolivarian Peace Diplomacy.

The dispute over Essequibo dates back over a century, but tensions escalated after Maduro asserted sovereignty over the region following a disputed referendum. Venezuelan voters approved the referendum on December 4, leading to concerns and protests in Guyana.

In 1899, an international arbitral tribunal awarded the territory of Essequibo to Britain during Guyana’s colonial rule. Venezuela has consistently disputed this decision. In November, Maduro accused Guyana, the U.S., and oil companies of engaging in “legal colonialism” to deprive Venezuela of its territory.

Guyana maintains that the accord is legal and binding, seeking validation from the International Court of Justice in 2018. On December 1, the International Court of Justice ordered Venezuela to refrain from taking any actions that would alter Guyana’s control over Essequibo.

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