By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — Guyana and Venezuela’s leaders ended a day of talks here on Thursday agreeing “directly or indirectly” not to threaten or use force against one another in any circumstances, as they continue to seek a resolution to the border dispute between them.
The Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela, issued following talks here between President Irfaan Ali and President Nicolas Maduro over the disputed Essequibo region, also indicated that the two countries agreed that “any controversies” between them will be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated Feb. 17, 1966.
According to the joint declaration, which was read out by the host Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, the two leaders said they are committed to the pursuance of good neighbourliness, peaceful coexistence, and the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean.
They noted Guyana’s assertion that it is committed to the process and procedures of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the resolution of the border controversy as well as noting Venezuela’s assertion of its lack of consent and lack of recognition of the ICJ and its jurisdiction in the border controversy.
Earlier, Ali had said that his administration is “unwavering” in its position regarding the ownership of the Essequibo region which makes up about two-thirds of Guyana and is home to 125,000 of the country’s 800,000 citizens.
“I made it clear that the controversy must be resolved at the ICJ and we are unwavering and resolute in ensuring that Guyana’s case is presented, defended and at the ICJ …which of course is binding on all the parties,” said Ali, who showed reporters a wrist band he is wearing with the map of Guyana on it.
The discussions here had been facilitated by the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Apart from the Venezuela and Guyana delegations, the talks were attended by several CARICOM leaders, CELAC, Brazil and UN observers.
Both Presidents Ali and Maduro were not present at the end of meeting news conference and Gonsalves said that no questions would be entertained after the Joint Declaration was read in both English and Spanish.
According to the Joint Declaration, Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to continue dialogue “on any other pending matters of mutual importance” to them.
They also agreed that both states “will refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict or disagreement arising from any controversy between them.
“The two States will cooperate to avoid incidents on the ground conducive to tension between them. In the event of such an incident the two States will immediately communicate with one another, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), and the President of Brazil to contain, reverse and prevent its recurrence.”
They have agreed to establish immediately a joint commission of the foreign ministers and technical persons from the two countries to address matters as mutually agreed, adding that an update from this joint commission will be submitted to the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela within three months.
The two leaders also agreed that Gonsalves, the Pro-Tempore President of CELAC, the CARICOM chairman and Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, as well as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil will remain “seized of the matter as Interlocutors and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres as Observer”, with the ongoing concurrence of Ali and Maduro.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Prime Minister Gonsalves’ role will continue even after St.Vincent and the Grenadines ceases to be the Pro-Tempore President of CELAC, within the framework of the CELAC Troika plus one; and Prime Minister Skerrit’s role will continue as a member of the CARICOM Bureau.”
The Joint Declaration said that the two leaders have agreed to meet again in Brazil, within the next three months, “or at another agreed time, to consider any matter with implications for the territory in dispute, including the above-mentioned update of the joint commission”.