Venezuela and Guyana agree to a high-level meeting amid annexation concerns

Venezuela and Guyana agree to a high-level meeting amid annexation concerns

Juan Pablo Arrez/AP

The Essequibo River flows through the Korobokari Crossing in Guyana, Saturday, November 19, 2023.


Venezuela and Guyana agreed to hold a high-level meeting The status of the disputed oil-rich Essequibo regionfollowing a wave of diplomacy involving the leaders of the two countries in addition to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

In the wake of a nationwide referendum last week, the Venezuelan government threatened to move forward with plans to annex the heavily forested Essequibo region, which is roughly the size of Florea and makes up about two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Venezuela has long insisted it has a historical claim to the region, something Guyana rejects. The current boundaries were determined by a ruling in 1899 by international arbitrators.

The proposed meeting is scheduled to take place on December 14 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to a letter shared with CNN en Español that Gonsalves sent to both presidents. The letter describes the “urgent need to de-escalate the conflict and establish an appropriate face-to-face dialogue.”

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also said that Brazilian President Lula will be invited to the meeting. Brazil shares extensive borders with both countries and disputed territories.

Both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali have agreed in principle to hold a meeting, but the date has not yet been confirmed.

“Venezuela expresses its satisfaction and accepts the invitation to meet with agreement and commitment,” a statement published by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on Saturday said, adding that it endorses “the historic position regarding the non-negotiable sovereign rights of Venezuela” over the Essequibo region.

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The Guyana government said on social media that Ali had agreed to the meeting, but “reiterated that Guyana’s land borders are not up for discussion, as they are currently before the International Court of Justice, and when they are decided, Guyana will fully respect them.” “.

The Guyanese statement added, “The President has made it clear on numerous occasions that the case before the International Court of Justice will not be the subject of bilateral discussions.”

Gabe Ora/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in Caracas, Venezuela, during the referendum vote on the disputed Essequibo region on Sunday, December 3, 2023.

UN Secretary-General Guterres earlier warned that the standoff over Essequibo should be settled through “peaceful means only” and urged the two countries to work with the International Court of Justice. Rosemary Di Carlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding and Political Affairs, briefed the powerful Security Council on the situation on December 8.

The International Court of Justice, based in The Hague, has been reviewing the territorial dispute since 2018 and will hold a trial in the spring, after decades of failed negotiations between the two countries through the United Nations. He. She to rule Last month, “Venezuela should refrain from taking any action that would modify the situation currently prevailing in the disputed territory.” However, Venezuela does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction in this case.

Gonsalves’ letters to the two presidents say that he is “aware” of each country’s position, and that given their position, “it is best for the leaders of the countries to speak to each other calmly, respectfully and patiently, in order to avoid escalation of matters.” Threat or use of force.”

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“Time is of the essence,” the letter said. “Let us all resolve to make this historic gathering a success. There is much at stake for our Caribbean and Latin American civilization.

CNN’s Caitlin Ho in New York contributed reporting.

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