By Jermine Abel,
Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris is calling for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing border dispute between two of the Federations closes partners, Guyana and Venezuela.
He made this call during an interview with The Observer on Wednesday (July 15).
“A peaceful resolution of the matter through political dialogue at the highest level, and we stand ready to support those engagement efforts,” he said. “Guyana is a member of the CARICOM family, very dear and precious to us, and Venezuela is a special friend.”
The two South American countries are locked in a heated dispute over two-thirds of Guyana’s land, which Venezuela is now claiming.
Tensions escalated recently when Exxon Mobil, an American-based oil and gas company drilling offshore Guyana, announced it had discovered a major reserve of crude off the coast of Essequibo.
That triggered Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, to issue a decree claiming waters in Guyana’s Stabroek block, where Exxon is drilling. He has claimed that, along with two-thirds of the country’s land, specifically in the Essequibo region.
Just last week Maduro issued a decree which replaces the first, but this one does not specify any coordinates in relation to boundaries. What the new decree does make clear is that Venezuela is ready to use military force to defend its new maritime boundary.
This prompted a strong reply from Guyana’s President, David Granger and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge.
Granger sought the support of the Caricom, which issued a short report calling for a peaceful resolution, including the use of the United Nations Good Office to resolve the matter. Guyana, a Caricom member state, has struck down that option, claiming that it has only help the Venezuelans.
PM Harris however, said the Caricom report takes into perspective the relationship that the organisation has with both countries.
“We believe that through diplomacy the matter can be resolved. We therefore took care in presenting the CARICOM position to ensure that there was no excitement of the anxieties between the two countries who were in an antagonistic relationship,” PM Harris noted.
That report was drafted at the recent special meeting of the Caricom Heads of State, shortly after Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Hon. Kamla Persad Bissessar publicly lent the country’s support to Guyana.
The Heads of government have come in for harsh criticisms from several sections regionally for the position they have taken, with some pointing fingers to the benefits that several of those Caricom member countries have received from the Venezuelans.
Dr. Harris pointed that the Caricom leaders took that position “to avoid inflammatory decisions that would harden the [contention] between the two groups.”
“We already had, at that particular meeting, the input of the Secretary General, who basically said that the good offices of the UN Secretary General would be available to assist Caricom, and to assist the plans in resolving that. I think therefore that there is no doubt that we want a peaceful resolution.”
He furthered, “There is no doubt that there will have to be give and take by both parties and we have to create the framework in which people are reminded to get involved and have serious negotiations.”
Guyana’s President is now travelling to a special meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) where he is expected to lay the border dispute before that meeting.