SVG PM urges calm in Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Monday, Sept. 19, 2005.
Associated Press / John Marshall Mantel, File

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves has appealed for calm among “agitators” in the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute.

In response to a question Saturday night, by Guyanese, New York-based lawyer and political activist Colin Moore, for Gonsalves’ intervention in the dispute, the Vincentian prime minister urged elements on both sides to tone down the rhetoric.

“In both countries, there are elements who want to ratchet it up,” said Gonsalves during the question-and-answer segment of a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn. “It has to be done (settlement of dispute) in the framework of International Law.”

With the death of Norman Girvan, the UN appointed mediator in the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute, Gonsalves said Guyanese feel they “should go to a different process under the auspices of the UN, but we have to tone down [the rhetoric].”

The Vincentian leader said he was one of four regional prime ministers who have sought a peaceful settlement of the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute.

“I form the opinion that both sides want a peaceful settlement,” said Gonsalves, disclosing that he was expected to meet with Guyana’s President David Granger and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, on Sunday on the margins of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Granger and Maduro were expected to hold talks on Sunday in a meeting facilitated by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

On May 26, Maduro issued a decree claiming two thirds of Guyana’s territory, igniting controversy from a dispute that was settled since 1899 by an Arbrital Award, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

The purported annexation of the waters off Essequibo now takes in the oil-rich Stabroek Block, where American oil giant Exxon Mobil in May found a “significant” reserve of high quality crude oil, CMC said.

ExxonMobil said the discovery was made in one of the two wells it dug, in the Liza-1 drill site, which realized more than 295 feet of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone.

Tension between Guyana and Venezuela ratcheted up significantly in recent weeks with the presence of “extraordinary” amounts of troops on the Venezuelan side of the border, according to iNews Guyana.

It said Venezuela had also deployed naval vessels laden with high-powered weapons in the Cuyuni River.

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defense Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips told Guyanese soldiers at Camp Ayangana Saturday morning that they should stand ready to defend Guyana’s borders, iNews said.

“We are ready to ensure that we have peace throughout Guyana,” Phillips said. “We are defending Guyana, we are defining aggression on our frontier, because we want to have peace in our country.”

But CMC reported on Sunday that the Venezuelan military was scaling down its presence at the Guyana – Venezuela border.

Guyana’s Minister of State Joseph Harmon made the disclosure late Saturday while defending the government’s decision last week to deploy additional troops and equipment to its border in response to the stance taken by Venezuela.

According to Harmon, the government’s response was adequate given that Venezuela’s show of force is now subsiding.

“The way we were responding to Venezuela is appropriate… as of yesterday, the reports we have is that Venezuela has started to remove,” he said.

“They started scaling back – the gun boat that was in the Cuyuni is now removed, and the armament they had there is now moved towards inland Venezuela,” Harmon added.

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