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UN Security Council to meet on Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

April 9, 2024

CMC – The United Nations Security Council Tuesday said it will convene a private meeting to discuss the recent developments regarding a territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela over the Essequibo region in Guyana.

Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, Miroslav Jenča will brief the Council and Venezuela is expected to participate in the meeting under Rule 37 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure.

The Security Council said Guyana had requested the meeting in an April 5 letter sent by President Irfaan Ali to the Council.

The letter cites Article 35 (1) of the UN Charter, which states that any UN member state “may bring any dispute, or any situation referred to in Article 34 (that is, one that may lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute) to the attention of the Security Council or of the General Assembly”.

In the letter requesting the meeting, Ali cited the “Organic Law for the Defense of Guayana Esequiba”, which President Nicolas Maduro signed on April 3.

Ali warned that this action “cements Venezuela’s intent to annex more than two-thirds of Guyana’s sovereign territory and make it part of Venezuela”.

But Maduro described the law as the implementation of the results of the December 3, 2023 referendum, adding that the law “establishes the creation of state number 24, the state of Guayana Esequiba within the political and territorial organization of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”.

The law also reiterated Venezuela’s rejection of the validity of the 1899 Paris Arbitral Award and the ICJ’s jurisdiction on the matter.

In his April 5 letter, President Ali said that the law violates the International Criminal Court’s (ICJ) December 1, 2023 provisional measures and expressed concern that given Caracas’ disregard of this order, “Venezuela’s next move would be to implement its plan for the seizure of our sovereign territory.”

Ali added that such an act would be a breach of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter and would contradict the letter and spirit of the Argyle Declaration.

The letter also rejects recent claims made by Maduro that the US has installed bases of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Essequibo, calling it a “dangerous narrative”.

The UN Security Council said Guyana may reiterate key messages from the letter at the meeting and that several Council members are expected to voice concern about the tensions between Guyana and Venezuela and call on the sides to resolve their differences through peaceful means.

“In this regard, they are likely to express support for regional dialogue efforts and for the implementation of the Argyle Declaration.”

“It seems that at the 8 December 2023 consultations, several members, including the US and European members, denounced Venezuela’s actions as provocative, emphasised the need to respect Guyana’s sovereignty, and said that the ICJ remains the forum where the territorial dispute over the Essequibo region should be resolved.”

“These members are likely to reiterate similar messages at today’s meeting and call on Venezuela to cease actions that could escalate the situation. Other members, such as China and Russia, apparently did not directly reference Venezuela’s role in the situation during the 8 December 2023 consultations.”

“It seems that these members argued that there was not enough information on the dispute, and as such, said that the Council should not engage or adopt products on the matter. Council members were unable to agree on press elements that were proposed during that meeting.”

The UN Security Council said that it is likely that one or more Council members may propose a draft press statement following the meeting.

The dispute over the Essequibo region, approximately 160,000 square km stretch of densely forested land that constitutes two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is home to roughly 125,000 of its 800,000 citizens, stretches back to the 19th century, when Guyana was under colonial rule.

Venezuela has laid claim to the Essequibo region since 1841, when it argued that the British Empire had encroached on Venezuelan territory in its acquisition of the territory of then-British Guiana from the Netherlands. It has also challenged the validity of the 1899 Paris Arbitral Award through which the border between Venezuela and British Guiana was decided.

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