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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday, De. 27, 2023.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday, De. 27, 2023.
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By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves Wednesday said he remains “very, very hopeful” that the talks between Venezuela and Guyana would continue in a very good spirit even as the United Kingdom announced it was sending a Royal Navy patrol ship, HMS Trent, to Guyana in a show of British support for the CARICOM country that is involved in a border dispute with Venezuela.

Gonsalves, speaking on the state-owned NBC Radio, said the HMS Trent is no stranger to the region, and that “it comes here sometimes to deal with helping to interdict drugs, deal with trafficking in persons, search and rescue. It has very limited, as I understand, it has very limited military capacity”.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said, “HMS Trent will visit regional ally and Commonwealth partner Guyana later this month as part of a series of engagements in the region during her Atlantic patrol task deployment.”

The offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent was due in Barbados over Christmas and will then head to Guyana for activities which will be carried out at sea. The ship is not expected to dock in Georgetown.

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Earlier this month, the Foreign Office Minister for the Americas and Caribbean, David Rutley, visited Guyana and later said “the border issue has been settled for over 120 years”, adding “sovereign borders must be respected wherever they are in the world”.

But Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez has accused the United Kingdom of provocation.

“A warship in waters to be delimited? And then? What about the commitment to good neighbourliness and peaceful coexistence?”

Lopez said Venezuela will remain vigilant against the “provocations that jeopardise the peace and stability of the Caribbean and our America”.

Guyana and Venezuela are both claiming ownership of the Essequibo county which makes up about two-thirds of Guyana and is home to 125,000 of the country’s 800,000 citizens.

On Dec. 3, Venezuela staged a referendum in which it said 95% of the votes cast were in support of the annexation of the Essequibo region and President Nicolas Maduro announced soon afterwards that foreign companies working in Essequibo would have to withdraw within three months.

He said he was also proposing a special law to prohibit all companies that work under Guyana concessions from any transaction and that Caracas would be creating a military unit for the disputed territory but that it would be based in a neighbouring Venezuelan state.

Prior to the referendum, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ruled that Venezuela must not take any action to seize Essequibo, which has been administered by Guyana for more than a century.

The Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela, issued following talks here earlier this month between President Irfaan Ali and Maduro, 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.

Gonsalves told radio listeners that he had read the Venezuelan statement very carefully and that they have considered this an act of provocation.

“They didn’t say that that was a threat. But what they said was a threat is that taken in conjunction with activities with the US Southern Command, that it appears that that conjoined represent a threat of force,” Gonsalves said, noting “the statement was not particularly belligerent, and I think we will have things like this over the period”.

Gonsalves said that as an interlocutor he has been in touch with both Ali and Maduro “with assurances given on either side of commitment to peace and continued dialogue and the like.

“So, I don’t want to express an opinion on it. Except to say that the matter concerning the US Southern Command when they do, they’ve done Tradewinds exercises in St. Vincent and in other countries too, limited kind of exercises.

“But Venezuela will naturally be concerned. But Guyana has transmitted through me, to them to indicate that these are not exercises, they are not threatening exercises.”

Gonsalves said that while Venezuela may have a different interpretation, they “have responded with a statement firmly.

“I don’t know how to be taken in Guyana, but I don’t think the statement was a belligerent one. I think it was measured and I think both sides are mature enough to continue the dialogue and the quest for peace.

“What I’m hoping for is that there would be fewer acts which may be open to the interpretation of provocation or threat. That’s how I formulate it. All right. But I’m not expressing a view because I’ve been asked to continue the role, and I will continue it.”

Gonsalves said that he would continue to be monitoring the situation over the Christmas holidays telling radio listeners the meeting here between Ali and Maduro on the border issue “was historic, and it’s holding.

“And I’m very, very hopeful of its continuation in that spirit,” he added.

3 replies on “Gonsalves hopeful good spirit surrounding Essequibo talks remains positive”

  1. de argyle thing was a waste of time says:

    when de shooting start gonzo u betta haul ass u is small fry de big boys UK, US, v Maduro, de Chinese and Russians gine be de ting

  2. The meeting was a farce. Venezuela is sabrerattling because of the presence of a British Warship. Let them first pull the trigger bl. They will be obliterated, not even the machiavellian will be able to save him. Let him first shout it will be akin to Argentina v England.

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