Guyana formally approaches World Court on border

GEORGETOWN, Guyana-Guyana has formally lodged documents with the World Court in The Netherlands, asking it to pronounce on the accuracy of claims by Venezuela that an 1899 demarcation of borders was null and void.

Government said in a statement that Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge had flown to The Hague to lodge an application applying to the court to hear the case. The documents were lodged on Thursday. Greenidge is Guyana’s agent in the case.

The two South American nations have for decades been at loggerheads over the location of both land and sea borders, with Guyana persistently complaining that it is being bullied by its more powerful and larger neighbor to its west.

Tensions have simmered over the years. In 2013, Venezuelan gunboats expelled a seismic vessel exploring for oil in waters claimed by Guyana and Venezuela, has since 1966, continue to occupy the western half of Ankoko Island on the border.

The United Nations in late January referred the case to the International Court of Justice, asking it to make a final ruling on where border markers should be located. The boundaries were settled by an international tribunal that had included Venezuela in 1899 but Venezuela changed its mind about accepting the markers about 60 years ago and has been pressing its claims to Guyana’s western Essequibo Region and a large swathe of marine space.

That space includes fields where ExxonMobil has found large quantities of oil and gas.

Guyana had staged a successful and spirited lobby to have the World Court hear the case even as Venezuela had objected, fearing that if it loses there would be no further avenues left to press its decades of claims to Guyana’s territory. It had urged the UN to continued mediated talks that Guyana had persistently dismissed as useless and a waste of energy and resources.

“In its application to the court, Guyana highlighted that Venezuela had, for more than 60 years consistently recognized and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the award,” the foreign ministry said.

It noted that Venezuela made an about face in 1962 as Britain was preparing to grant independence.

“Venezuela had only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and ad threatened not to recognize the new state, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory,” the statement of claim said.

Government noted that “Venezuela has never produced any evidence to substantiate its belated repudiation of the 1899 award, that country has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

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