The parliamentary opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) on Saturday said it welcomed the decision by President Irfaan Ali and the President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro to meet next week in St Vincent, but said the border controversy over Guyana’s Essequibo County must not be the subject of those talks.
“The opposition believes that there must not be any discussions of the territorial controversy between our two countries as this matter is properly before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and this process must be allowed to take its course so that it is settled within the confines of international law,” APNU+AFC said.
Already, President Irfaan Ali on Saturday ruled out any negotiations on the dispute over the 160,000 square kilometre Essequibo County.
The President of Brazil, Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva and a United Nations Secretary General are expected to observe the December 14 meeting at 10 AM in Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent.
President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said dialogue between the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela would be key to ensuring respect for international law and peace rather than conflict. “I see great value for the communication and I want you also to look at what is preferable: Talking in peace respectfully than fighting despite all the challenges,” he said in response to a Demerara Waves question on the value of next week’s Ali-Maduro talks given the fact that Venezuela want a bilateral solution to the border controversy and Guyana said the ICJ is the only means of settling the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award.
“This is a complicated question but it is not beyond the leaders to save the region from intense conflict which will bring about lots of pain and suffering and will set back this region more than a generation,” he added.
The Vincentian leader appealed to those concerned not to do anything to “derail this first face-to-face” meeting.
In Dr Gonsalves’ letter to Presidents Ali and Maduro, he said the meeting would discuss on “matters consequential to the border controversy between these two great countries. Since the December 3 referendum in Venezuela, Mr Maduro has declared Venezuela one of its military zones and has said its state oil and mining companies would be authorised to explore for oil, gas and gold in Essequibo. United States military aircraft, in collaboration with the Guyana Defence Force, earlier this week conducted flight operations over Guyana’s airspace.
Following is the full text of the APNU+AFC statement.
The Parliamentary Opposition welcomes the action being taken by the international community to ensure there is peace between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Parliamentary Opposition wishes to make it quite clear that we are not opposed to dialogue or discussions with the President of Venezuela as this could lead to better relations between the Governments and peoples of our two countries. Indeed, paragraph 3 of the Geneva Agreement recognises that “closer cooperation between British Guiana and Venezuela could bring benefit to both countries.”
That is why since independence Guyana has sought and promoted bilateral relations with our Western neighbor across a spectrum of issues including health, education, and other relevant areas of development. It must also be recalled that during the Parliamentary debate
on the territorial controversy that the opposition insisted that the door should always be open to dialogue.
We believe that the meeting should seek to ensure the two states recommence bilateral discussions since they will open new vistas for good neighbourliness, and peace between our two states and peoples.
It is the considered view of the Opposition that the two Leaders could continue to explore the expansion of bilateral issues which could improve the lives of the peoples of our two countries and contribute to the peaceful development of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The opposition believes that there must not be any discussions of the territorial controversy between our two countries as this matter is properly before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and this process must be allowed to take its course so that it is settled within the confines of international law.
The Parliamentary Opposition remains committed to playing its role in the ongoing relationship between Guyana and Venezuela and will always work towards the protection of the Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty of our nation