Contested area between Guyana and Venezuela. (Image Credits: Google Images)

Guyana concerned by Venezuela’s troop buildup amid border dispute

The nations Guyana and Venezuela have been tackling a protracted border dispute with each other that has been brought to the attention of major international players and even the United Nations.

Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, spoke against the steps being taken by Venezuela, saying that Guyana and its people take threats to the nation’s sovereignty very seriously and refused to back down.

He spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, explaining that Venezuela persists in making illegal claims against Guyana, even though the matter is being addressed by the International Court of Justice.

According to the international body, the Geneva Convention of 1966 has set the borders for both sides. Venezuela on the other has made its own claims regarding Guyana. According to Venezuelan authorities, Guyana is making illegal maritime claims which has become a major bone of contention.

Venezuela strongly rejects the illegal bidding round for oil blocks currently being carried out by the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana in maritime areas pending delimitation between both countries.”

“The Government of Guyana does not have sovereign rights over these maritime areas and consequently any action within their limits is a violation of International Law, as long as they are not carried out through an agreement with Venezuela” stated the official communique.

President Irfaan Ali gave his thoughts on the matter in the following statement, “We demand that Venezuela honours its obligation under the Charter to pursue only peaceful means to settle any disputes it may have with Guyana, including adjudication before the International Court of Justice. Allowing the Court to decide would ensure a resolution that is peaceful, equitable and in accordance with international law. Guyana will spare no effort in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

While most parties, including the United States, stood by Guyana, expecting Venezuela to avoid an escalation, their opinions have altered now.

On Wednesday, the Government of Guyana stated that it had ‘requested’ Venezuela to explain an increase in military personal at the contested border. There have also been reports of military exercises being conducted in the region which are often a sign of preparation before an offensive is launched.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation stated that it was keeping a close eye on social media reports regarding military movements along the border.

“The Government wishes to advise that every piece of information is taken seriously and is being examined in detail. The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has also been reviewing these reports.”

“To this end, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation requested today an explanation from the Venezuelan Ambassador who claimed that the mobilisation of troops was geared towards curbing illegal mining operations.” said official sources.

According to them, the Government of Guyana has also made it a point to relay this information to the heads of other CARICOM nations as well as Guyana’s international partners. While it wasn’t mentioned explicitly, it would be safe to assume that one of those partners would be the United States of America.

The head of the GDF Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan reassured the people of Guyana on Tuesday by saying there was no need to worry about troop movements.

“If there is any need to alert on developments outside of the norm, we have a duty to make it known” Khan said in a statement given to Demerara Wave Online News.

There have also been reports that the military buildup is being carried out so that Venezuela can carry out operations against illegal mining. This has been a long-standing issue for Venezuela, although many do not see it as a good enough excuse.

Guyana has responded internally by getting Opposition Shadow Foreign Minister, Amanza Walton-Desir to call an “urgent” meeting of the parliamentary committee on foreign relations. This meeting is meant to prepare a brief on the developments surrounding the border dispute as well as on the issue of increasing Venezuelan migrants.

Guyana has also been displeased by President Nicolas Maduro’s response when they called for public talks to resolve the issue.

Seeing no other option, Guyana has now placed its faith in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which is reviewing whether the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award remains valid or not. This decision will decide the fate of the border dispute.