Nicolas Maduro and Guyana’s President Commit to Peaceful Resolution of Essequibo Dispute

Nicolas Maduro and Guyana’s President Commit to Peaceful Resolution of Essequibo Dispute

In a significant development, the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and his counterpart from Guyana, Irfaan Ali, have reaffirmed their commitment to engage in ongoing dialogues to resolve the long-standing conflict over the Essequibo region.

The leaders met in San Vicente and the Grenadines, where they discussed the escalating dispute and the recent referendum held in Venezuela, which demonstrated overwhelming support for the country’s sovereignty over this resource-rich territory.

The Meeting and Key Agreements

During their meeting, President Maduro and President Ali reached several important agreements aimed at fostering peaceful resolution and cooperation between the two nations. A joint statement released after the meeting highlighted the following key points:

Commitment to resolve any disputes between the two states in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966.

Emphasis on fostering good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence, and unity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Acknowledgment of Guyana’s commitment to engaging with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in resolving the border dispute and Venezuela’s non-consent and non-recognition of the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the matter.

Mutual agreement to refrain from escalating conflicts or disagreements arising from the dispute.

Immediate establishment of a joint commission comprising Foreign Ministers and technical experts from both countries to address mutually agreed-upon matters.

Agreement to reconvene in Brazil within the next three months or at an agreed-upon time to discuss any issues related to the disputed territory, including updates on the joint commission.

Representatives from the United Nations, Brazil, and the Prime Ministers of San Vicente and the Grenadines and Dominica were present at the meeting, acting as intermediaries and witnesses to the discussions.

Commitment to Dialogue and Peace

In a post-meeting statement, the Venezuelan government expressed its commitment to continuing the dialogue with Guyana and resolving the Essequibo controversy peacefully. They underscored the leaders’ shared willingness to find a mutually acceptable solution to the territorial dispute.

President Ali, in a press conference, reiterated Guyana’s commitment to peace, emphasizing the nation’s respect for peaceful coexistence with Venezuela and all countries in the region. He emphasized that Guyana does not seek aggression or war but reserves the right to work with its partners to defend its country.

Additionally, President Ali affirmed Guyana’s unwavering determination to seek a resolution through the ICJ, emphasizing the importance of respecting the court’s decision.

Understanding the Significance of the Essequibo Region

Essequibo region, also known as Guayana Esequiba, encompasses an area of approximately 159,500 square kilometers west of the Essequibo River. This vast territory, which is 1.5 times larger than Cuba and three times larger than Costa Rica, includes six out of the ten regions of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It is home to around 125,000 of Guyana’s 800,000 inhabitants.

Situated within the heart of the Guiana Shield, one of the oldest geological formations on Earth, the Essequibo region possesses abundant natural resources and minerals. Experts often compare its potential to Venezuela’s neighboring Orinoco Mining Arc, an expansive mining area spanning over 111,800 square kilometers and rich in minerals such as gold, copper, diamonds, iron, bauxite, and aluminum.

Notably, the Essequibo region hosts the Omai gold mine, one of the largest in the Guiana Shield, which has been a significant source of revenue for Guyana. Between 1993 and 2005, the mine produced over 3.7 million ounces of gold.

Additionally, the disputed waters surrounding the region hold immense oil reserves. Since 2015, ExxonMobil and its partners have made 46 oil discoveries, significantly boosting Guyana’s oil reserves to approximately 11 billion barrels, equivalent to around 0.6% of the world’s total.

Furthermore, the Essequibo region boasts substantial water resources due to its extensive network of rivers, further adding to its strategic importance.

Factors Contributing to the Escalation of the Conflict

Understanding the recent escalation of tensions surrounding the Essequibo dispute requires a historical overview. When Spain established the Captaincy General of Venezuela, the Essequibo was part of its territorial sub-entity. After gaining independence in 1811, Venezuela assumed sovereignty over the region.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom entered into an agreement with the Netherlands to acquire approximately 51,700 square kilometers to the east of Venezuela, without defining the western border of what would become British Guiana. In 1840, London appointed explorer Robert Schomburgk, who drew a line claiming an additional 80,000 square kilometers, which was expanded four decades later.

In 1895, the United States recommended resolving the dispute through international arbitration, leading to the issuance of the Paris Award in 1899, which placed the territory under British control. However, the validity of the award was called into question decades later when documents surfaced questioning its impartiality.

Venezuela regarded the award as null and void, reviving its claim. In 1966, the United Kingdom granted independence to Guyana, and the parties committed to seeking a resolution, but no UN ruling was obtained, and the case was shelved during the tenure of President Hugo Chávez due to his amicable relationship with Georgetown.

The conflict dynamics changed in 2015 when significant oil discoveries were made in coastal areas of the disputed zone. These findings unexpectedly propelled Guyana, with its population of 800,000, into becoming one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In 2022, Guyana’s GDP experienced a remarkable growth rate of 57.8%, with a projected growth of 25% for the current year.

Conclusion

Commitment of President Maduro and President Ali to continuing their dialogue and resolving the Essequibo dispute peacefully marks a significant step towards de-escalating tensions between Venezuela and Guyana. The agreements reached during their meeting, including the establishment of a joint commission and the emphasis on international law and good neighborliness, provide a framework for future discussions.

Essequibo region’s strategic importance, with its abundant natural resources and mineral wealth, and the recent oil discoveries, has amplified the stakes involved. As the two nations move forward, the peaceful resolution of this long-standing dispute will not only benefit their respective countries but also contribute to regional stability and cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean.