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UN delays decision on Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

Bert Wilkinson | 2/1/2018, 11:25 a.m.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had agreed to make a decision to send the decades-old Guyana-Venezuela border dispute to the World Court in the Netherlands for a once and for all settlement by the end of December, but more than a month after that deadline has passed, no decision has been made.

And cabinet officials and people in the Caribbean Community headquarters nation are becoming increasingly anxious and suspicious about the motives of U.N. headquarters in Manhattan as to why the decision is being delayed.

Word among diplomats at the U.N. is that Guterres might be preparing to ask both sides to continue talking for another year or two, despite the fact that a U.N.-initiated system of mediation that has been in place for nearly 30 years has yielded absolutely no results whatsoever.

In fact, former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon had, instead of sending the case to the International Court of Justice, asked both sides to talk for an additional year in all of 2017, and based on the outcome of those discussions, the matter would be referred to the court.

Guyanese Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge has persistently said that there has been no change of positions by either side during the past year, with Guyana insisting that the award of an 1899 international tribunal that had demarcated boundaries is full, final and a legal settlement of the issue.

But Venezuela continues to insist that it was cheated out of not only Guyana’s mineral rich western Essequibo Region but also out of large tracts of oil and gas-bearing marine waters, despite the fact that Venezuela was represented on the commission that had settled border lines. Exxon and its investment partners have so far found more than 3.2 billion barrels of oil from six wells and plan to drill nearly 50 more.

So anxiety is growing in the corridors of power in Georgetown because diplomats from other countries have been hinting that Guterres might well ask the two sides to sit down at the negotiating table again, despite the flagrant lack of progress from mediated talks.

Part of the reason for the stalemate is the fact that U.N. mediator Daag Havlor Nylander has several times tried to ask Guyana to cede both valuable land and marine space to Venezuela to settle the case. Guyana has rejected those overtures outright and points to the fact that its hardline position should alone indicate that there is nothing more to talk about. The ICJ should decide said President David Granger.

Nylander of Norway should have completed his report for Guterres at the end of November to allow for a determination by the end of December. Guyanese officials in the know said they were quite annoyed when Nylander asked for additional meetings into late December, where suggestions for the country to give up land and marine space were still put to negotiators despite previous rejections.

“We shall continue to defend every blade of grass of our homeland,” Granger told a military officers conference late last week. “We shall never cede a centimeter of territory or compromise a tittle of sovereignty.”

Officials say Guyana will need to step up its international lobby to make all aware of the situation, particularly its Caribbean neighbors that have, ironically, benefited from millions of cash and other aid from Venezuela under its PetroCaribe initiative.