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…accuses Guyana of meddling in its internal affairs
…claims ExxonMobil straying Guyana away from negotiations with Venezuela, acting on self-interest
By Lisa Hamilton
In a statement on Monday, Venezuela rejected statements made by President Irfaan Ali on the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling that it has jurisdiction to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
In the statement shared by Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, the Spanish-speaking country claimed that Guyana was being led astray by ExxonMobil to meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
The exchange comes about after President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali had rejected a decree made by Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro on January 7, 2021 claiming exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.
The area in question is part of the Stabroek Block being drilled by US oil giant, ExxonMobil. Only recently the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction in the Guyana-Venezuela territorial border issue and would give the final judgment on the matter. In his response to Maduro’s decree, President Ali had referred Venezuela to the 1899 Arbitral Award and expressed confidence that Guyana’s territory would remain as-is.
However, based on an unofficial translation of the statement to English done by the Village Voice News, the neighbouring country has urged Guyana and its President not to violate Venezuela’s sovereignty by making “false and disrespectful” claims.
“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela protests and rejects the extravagant declarations of January 9 of the current of the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Mr. Irfaan Ali, who repeatedly alluded to Venezuela in matters that are absolutely the responsibility of our internal jurisdiction, when referring to a presidential decree on regional administrative management that is the exclusive competence of the National Executive in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic, and that is not the responsibility of the Guyanese authorities,” the translated statement reads.
It referred to the statement of President Ali as “dangerous claims” which Venezuela believes is not in accordance with International Public Law or “good neighborliness”.
In December 2018, Guyana’s territorial integrity was violated when a Venezuelan Navy corvette – the Karina PC-14 – made a hostile incursion into Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In 2013, a petroleum exploration vessel – RV Teknik Perdana –conducting a survey in the Roraima Block offshore, was also intercepted by a Venezuelan Navy frigate and ordered to cease its activities.
In the past, Venezuela has also utilised its military to exclude Guyana from its half of the Ankoko Island.
In September 2020, a visit of US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo to Guyana saw discussions on amplifying the pressure on Venezuela. Pompeo said that President Maduro is a threat to the region and must be removed from power.
According to the translated statement, Venezuela believes that Guyana is being used as a pawn by the US. Venezuela would prefer that Guyana remain open to negotiation on the matter.
“It is regrettable that the statements of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, at its highest official, tries to persist in the confrontation, making false and disrespectful accusations and driving the Cooperative Republic of Guyana away from the path of negotiation, seduced by the interests of Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil, clearly supported by the outgoing government of Donald Trump and its abusive use of force,” the statement reads.
“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, consistent with its international actions of strict adherence to legality, a firm believer in the path of friendly cooperation, reiterates to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the invitation to redirect the controversy within the legal framework of the Geneva Agreement. Venezuela rejects any attempt to validate threats or aggressions that threaten the peace of our Region, and seek to violate our inalienable and undisputed sovereignty and independence.”
Indeed, after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) took office in August 2020, Maduro congratulated President Ali and stated that he was interested in resuming discussions on the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy, but on pre-2015 terms.
Over the weekend Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael Kozak threw US’ support behind the ICJ ruling, saying that it has jurisdiction to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
Though Venezuela opted not to participate in the case before the ICJ, rejecting its jurisdiction, Guyana awaits the ruling of the Court to settle the matter once and for all.