Guyana remains confident in ICJ, committed to international law – President Ali tells UN General Assembly

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In his inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 23, Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, affirmed the South American nation’s confidence in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the country remains engaged in the border controversy case with neighbouring Venezuela, which is before court. 

Speaking at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Ali stated, “Guyana reposes confidence in this institution. We are committed to the rule of international law inclusive of the peaceful resolution of disputes.”

He reminded the UN General Assembly of Guyana filing an application with the ICJ in March 2018 seeking an affirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the international boundary that was established between Guyana and its neighbour.

“We are happy to report that on the 30th of June 2020, the ICJ held its first virtual hearing on the controversy involving Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” he said. “Regrettably, Venezuela has refused to participate in the hearing. Guyana awaits the determination of the ICJ on whether the Court has jurisdiction to proceed to hearing the merits of the case.” 

Guyana and its Spanish-speaking neighbour to the west have long been involved in a controversy as it relates to their territorial boundaries. Although the matter was settled by the 1899 Arbitral Award which both Venezuela and Great Britain accepted at the time as a final settlement of the border dispute, in 1962 Venezuela began new arguments declaring that the 1899 arbitral award was “null and void”.

These claims continued in earnest through the ensuing decades and tensions escalated in 2015 following the announcement by ExxonMobil of its world class oil discovery at the Stabroek Block, offshore Guyana. To date, over eight billion barrels of oil equivalent resources have been discovered in the area. 

On June 30 last, a virtual hearing was conducted before the ICJ which saw Guyana putting forth its argument on why the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. This was after Venezuela maintained that the ICJ does not have such jurisdiction. The date of the ruling on that issue is to be announced.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, in August signaled a desire to return to bilateral talks with Guyana on the matter. However, Guyana maintains that it is interested in seeking a conclusion of the matter by way of the ICJ.

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