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Guyana President Irfaan Ali addressing the eighth CELAC Summit in St. Vincent on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Photo: DPI Guyana)
Guyana President Irfaan Ali addressing the eighth CELAC Summit in St. Vincent on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Photo: DPI Guyana)
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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — Guyana on Friday called for the Latin America and Caribbean region to remain a zone of peace, saying its inhabitants must never experience the effects of war as is the case in Ukraine and the Gaza.

Addressing the eighth Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), President Irfaan Ali, said that it is this determination for the region to be a zone of peace that has underscored Georgetown’s position regarding its border dispute with Venezuela.

“Our commitment to the peace and stability of this region must remain paramount. Latin America and the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace. The never-ending war in Ukraine and the unceasing bombing of Gaza are senseless acts of aggression to humanity to consume the efforts of the international community to find ways in which its citizens of Ukraine and Palestine can be relieved of their suffering.

“But so far to no avail. We must never allow the peoples of this region to be subjected to such actions,” Ali said, adding that the genocide in Palestine “must come to an end and hostages held must be returned”.

He said that it is in this vein that Guyana last December had accepted the offer of CELAC, CARICOM and Brazil with the United Nations as an observer to meet here with President Nicolas Maduro to discuss the ongoing border dispute with Venezuela.

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The two countries have an ongoing territorial dispute over 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.

Both Guyana and Venezuela have made presentations to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) relating to the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the border between Venezuela and the then-British Guiana, confirmed as legally enforceable.

Ali said he had assured everyone in December and now “that I am prepared and continue to be prepared to speak with President Maduro on any aspect that may contribute to enhancing the relationship between our two countries.

Nicholas Maduro
Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro at the eighth CELAC Summit in St. Vincent on Friday, March 1, 2024. (Photo: DPI Guyana)

He said the aspect relating to Venezuela’s claim to portions of Guyana is before the ICJ and the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between the two countries “acknowledges that Guyana is committed to the process of the procedure of the International Court of Justice for a resolution of the border controversy.

“We are prepared to accept the judgement of the Court on this matter,” Ali said, adding “I can assure you that Guyana remains steadfast in its commitment to the international judicial process as well as maintaining our region as a zone of peace.

“We want peace, we want prosperity for our neighbours and all in this region. We want to be our brothers’ keeper with our neighbour,” Ali said.

He said that instead of drawing conclusions, states within the region must ascertain the facts, adding that “statements that are not based on facts can only add to destabilisation.

“As we heard this morning from our friends in Bolivia, the air surveillance and sea exercise mentioned by Bolivia were part of a bilateral and regional security cooperation and had nothing to do with Guyana and Venezuela controversies.

“It is also important to note that no mention was made of incursion of Guyana’s territorial space, my commitment to this august body is Guyana and everything we do will be built on peace and our fundamental values as Guyanese and Guyana are based on peace.

“We are a peaceful people … standing on a platform of principle  and honesty and values and nothing else,” he told the summit, using the occasion to market his country as a place for investment .

“I assure all leaders here that Guyana’s priority is peace and you can have the confidence that our territory will never ever be used as a platform for war or to promote war,” Ali said to loud applause.