Commonwealth reaffirms support for Guyana’s sovereignty in Venezuela border case

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As the curtains of the Commonwealth Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda closed, the Heads of Government present reaffirmed their “firm and unwavering support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana” in the matter of the border case.

This case, before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), regards the Arbitral Award of 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela). Venezuela had started clamouring more about its claim for Guyana’s Essequibo region when oil discoveries by ExxonMobil in the offshore Stabroek block started to pile up. Guyana approached the Court in March 2018 asking it to rule on the validity of an 1899 pact that effectively settled the matter.

In a communique circulated following a Heads of Government press conference, Heads on Saturday noted the decision made by the ICJ on December 18, 2020, that it has jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by Guyana on 29 March 2018, paving the way for the ICJ to consider the merits of the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela).

They also noted that Guyana had submitted its Memorial on March 8, 2022, in accordance with the schedule set by the ICJ to hear the case, concerning the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary between the two countries.

Against this, the communique said Heads reiterated their full support for the ongoing judicial process that is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries.

In early June, Venezuela submitted to the ICJ a Preliminary Objection to the admissibility of the ongoing border controversy case with Guyana, resulting in a suspension of the hearing, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The Guyana government said the Spanish-speaking nation is attempting to delay the ICJ’s final judgment on the merits of the case.

The Ministry noted that Venezuela previously did not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICJ to even consider the case. So, the fact that they have submitted objections “at this advanced stage of the proceedings” represents a deliberate attempt to prevent a timely end to the matter, the Ministry said.

Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), hosted by different member countries on a rotating basis. However, it was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1971, a total of 24 meetings have been held, with the most recent being in the UK in 2018. This year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 took place 20-25 June 2022 in Rwanda. The event is proceeded by four forums, ministerial meetings, side events and other activities.

54 independent countries make up the Commonwealth.


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