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….Belize joins with Guyana in condemning Venezuela over illegal detention of Guyanese
One day after he assured his Guyanese counterpart that necessary steps will be taken to release the detained fishermen, Venezuela’s Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Relations, Jorge Arreaza has issued Guyana with a Protest Note, maintaining that the Guyanese fishing vessels were within Venezuela’s jurisdiction – a contention that Guyana has long rejected as false.
On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Minister delivered a Protest Note to the Charge d’Affaires of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Robert Mckenzie, in rejection of what it describes as “defamations and accusations,” made by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd.
The Spanish speaking country is claiming that the two Guyanese fishing vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – were “illegal fishing in waters of full sovereignty and jurisdiction of Venezuela” but Guyana has made it clear that the vessels were operating off the coast of Waini Point within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It said that the Bolivarian National Navy had no authority to intercept the vessels.
Notably, the Protest Note from Venezuela came one after Guyana’s Foreign Minister held talks with the Venezuelan Minister. During that virtual meeting, the two Foreign Ministers discussed modalities for the release of Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolft as well as their crew members, who were detained by the Bolivarian National l Navy last Thursday.
“The Venezuelan Foreign Minister assured that the crew members were being treated with utmost respect for their human rights. At the request of Foreign Minister Todd, Minister Arreaza undertook to pursue their early release. Both Foreign Ministers agreed to the importance of mutual respect in relations between the two countries,” Guyana’s Foreign Minister said in a statement on Monday.
But while Guyana’s Foreign Ministry indicated that Venezuela, during Monday’s meeting, said steps would be taken to release the fishermen, the President Nicolas Maduro led Administration, in a statement, defended its claim.
“During the videoconference, Minister Arreaza conveyed to the Guyanese diplomat the concern of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela about the handling that his office has done on the case, even showing him the evidence and location coordinates that show that the vessels were carrying out illegal fishing activities in jurisdictional waters of the Bolivarian country,” a statement from the Venezuelan Government read.
This latest act of aggression by the Maduro Administration has been strongly condemned by the Government and people of Guyana.
“Guyana condemns in the strongest possible terms this wanton act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens. This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said over the weekend.
Venezuela’s illegal interception and interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, comes approximately two weeks after the Spanish speaking country claimed exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River, which also form part of the EEZ. That decree was also rejected by Guyana, with countries and regional and international organisations such as CARICOM, the Commonwealth, the US and Canada condemning the move. This latest act of intrusion has also been condemned by France and Belize.
Belize, in a statement on Tuesday, in expressing concern that 12 Guyanese nationals have been held by the Venezuelan authorities, indicated that its Foreign Minister met the Venezuelan Ambassador for an explanation.
“Hon Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, met with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Belize, H.E Gerardo Argote, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 24, 2021 for an explanation of his Government’s action.
Minister Courtenay took the opportunity to condemn this latest flagrant violation of Guyana’s sovereign and territorial integrity by Venezuela. Belize called for the immediate release of the illegally detained Guyanese nationals and their vessels and urged the Government of Venezuela to respect international law and ensure a peaceful resolution of this incident,” a section of the statement issued by the Belizean Government read.
It said too that Minister Courtenay is in close contact with Minister Todd on the matter, and the country remains on the side of Guyana. “Belize reiterates its unequivocal support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the process underway before the International Court of Justice to finally and peacefully resolve the controversy between the two countries,” the statement read.
The 1899 Arbitral Award, legally established the boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, however, more than 60 years after the award was issued, Venezuela claimed that it was null and void. On the instructions of the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, Guyana moved to the ICJ for judicial settle even as it maintains that the Award stands.
Last December, the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to determine the validity of the award, and next month will set out guidelines for the hearing of the much anticipated case.