Guyana Threatens Venezuela with UN Sanctions over Essequibo Dispute

Georgetown says the UN will have a “range of options” should Caracas refuse to accept adjudication by the Hague, which Venezuela considers a violation of previous agreements.

Guyana’s foreign minister, Carl Greenidge, has supported the ICJ’s jurisdiction over the Essequibo dispute
Guyana’s foreign minister, Carl Greenidge, has supported the ICJ’s jurisdiction over the Essequibo dispute

Merida, April 2, 2018, ( – Guyanese Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge threatened Monday to push for UN sanctions against neighbouring Venezuela should Caracas fail to accept the upcoming ruling of the International Court of Justice regarding the border dispute between the two nations.

The dispute over the Essequibo region was previously being mediated by UN Good Offices, but was transferred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres in January. “We concluded that meaningful progress in the controversy has not been reached,” declared Guterres on January 30.

However on Friday, Venezuela, which considers the ICJ biased towards Guyana, said a “judicial deal” on the two-hundred-year-old would be “unacceptable, unfruitful, and unenforceable.”

In response, Greenidge indicated that the UN “will have a range of options” in the face of Venezuelan non-compliance with the Hague, including sanctioning Caracas, or referring the matter to the UN General Assembly or Security Council.

The Essequibo region, which covers 160,000 km2, formed part of Venezuela from 1777 until the map was later redrawn by colonial powers.

In 1899, a Paris-based and US-led closed-door Arbitration Ruling declared the Essequibo to be part of the British colony of Guyana. However, recent evidence has shown how Russia and Britain reached a secret agreement to bribe the committee with promises of opening up Guyana to investment by US companies. Venezuelan representatives were not invited to the arbitration ruling.

The 1899 ruling was nullified by the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Britain and Venezuela, in which they agreed to use diplomatic channels to find a “practical and satisfying solution [to the dispute] … that is acceptable for both parties”.

Mediated talks between Caracas and Georgetown were progressing positively until the 2015 election of right-wing Guyanese President David Granger, who has taken a hard line on the issue. UN-mediated talks resumed in September 2017 without reaching an agreement.

The situation escalated in 2015-2016 following the discovery of oil off the Essequibo coastline and Granger’s granting of exploration contracts to US multinational oil giant Exxon-Mobil, which Caracas says violates the Geneva Agreement.

Exxon-Mobil has since declared that will be paying Guyana’s $15-$20 million legal bills in the ICJ case, in which the Caribbean nation has requested that the 1899 border ruling be validated.

Venezuela, for its part, has invoked the 1966 Geneva Agreement in calling for dialogue and for Georgetown to “re-establish diplomatic contacts”.

“We object to the judicial settlement as a means of resolving the territorial dispute,” Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said in a press statement released March 30.

The transfer of the dispute to the ICJ, Caracas added, “exceeds the powers granted by the figure of Good Offices…and contravenes the spirit, intent, and purpose of the Geneva Agreement.”