Venezuela & Guyana Agree to UN Mediation as Dispute Reaches Boiling Point

The governments of Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to accept UN mediation in a bid to overcome their recent diplomatic altercation over disputed territory. Both heads of state also agreed to restore their ambassadors in New York City last Sunday.

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
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Caracas, September 28th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The governments of Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to allow a UN commission to mediate in the ongoing diplomatic altercation involving the disputed border to the west of the Essequibo river.  

The agreement between the two countries was reached during a private meeting between Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, his Guyanese counterpart, David Granger and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the UN headquarters in New York this past Sunday. 

“I proposed to Mr. Granger that we should be in permanent direct communication so as not to allow lies to have a goading effect on the peace of our countries and the Caribbean, I hope we achieve it,” commented President Maduro following the meeting. 

The territory in question has been in dispute at international courts since 1899, when Venezuela protested a Paris court ruling that granted the area to the British colonial interests which ruled Guyana at the time. 

Granted that British Guiana (later Guyana), Great Britain and Venezuela agreed during a 1966 UN summit to postpone settlement of the territory, Guyana’s move to unilaterally allow private petroleum country ExxonMobil to begin drilling in the area earlier this year sparked outcry from Caracas.

In May the oil giant, whose stake in Venezuela’s Orinoco River Belt project was previously nationalised by the government in 2007, announced that it had made a “significant” oil discovery offshore from the Essequibo region. 

The Venezuelan government promptly withdrew its ambassador to Guyana in June, and has also delayed accepting Guyana’s ambassador nomination to Caracas. It accuses Exxon of trying to sow conflict between the two countries. 

Nonetheless on Sunday, Maduro stated that his government wanted to resume “brotherly relations” with Guyana despite their differences.

Until recently the two countries enjoyed friendly diplomatic relations, with Venezuela writing off 100 percent of Guyana’s debt to the country in 2007. 

According to a communique issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Office this week, Maduro described Sunday’s meeting as “complex, tense and difficult” but necessary in order to advance towards peace. 

A different rhetoric was adopted by Maduro’s Guyanese counterpart, however, who took to the stand at the UN’s 70th General Assembly this Tuesday to vigorously denounce what he termed as Venezuela’s “attacks and threats” and its “obnoxious territorial claim”. 

He also accused the South American country of attempting to sabotage Guyana’s economic development in a speech which appeared to suggest little commitment to a negotiated resolution. 

The recently elected Granger government has ramped up its rhetoric against Venezuela, refusing to accept that the border is in dispute and accusing his Venezuelan counterpart of “expansionism”. 

Just a week prior to Sunday’s meeting, the retired army officer had denied that his government would consider UN mediation, instead stating that it would seek recourse to international courts. 

But Granger seemingly conceded after Maduro invoked the “good mediator” clause that was set forth between the two countries in 1987 and which was signed by both governments on Sunday.

A UN committee is expected to visit Venezuela over the next few weeks in order to assess the country’s historic claim to the zone.

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