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Not a blade of grass Venezuela -
President Ali

Guyana Chronicle

Guyana's President Dr. Irfaan Ali

- Guyana rejects Maduro’s latest decree over Essequibo
- Commits to peaceful resolution of border controversy through ICJ

By Navendra Seoraj/Guyana Chronicle

Petroleumworld 01 11 2021

VENEZUELA’S attempt to claim for itself the seas and seabed adjacent to the coast west of the Essequibo River will receive no legal regard from any other State in the world, and moreso Guyana, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has affirmed.

“I remind that sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, whose validity and legally binding character Guyana is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold unequivocally,” President Ali told the nation in an address on Saturday.

President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, on January 7, 2021, issued a decree claiming Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.

This comes on the heels of the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana, Venezuela border controversy case.

Regrettably, by decreeing that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two fundamental principles of international law have been violated, President Ali said.

The first violation, as outlined by Guyana’s President, is that no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether land or maritime.

President Ali contended that the fixing of an international boundary under international law can only result from an agreement between neighbouring States, or a binding determination by an international court or arbitral tribunal.

“Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to attempt, unilaterally, to fix both its land and maritime boundaries with Guyana is a legal nullity, which cannot, and will not, be respected by any other State in the world, including Guyana,” the Head of State affirmed.

The second violation of fundamental international law, referenced by President Ali, is based on the fact that under well-established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that says, “the land dominates the sea.”

This means that sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the sea and seabed, emanate from title to the land that forms the coast to which those seas and seabed are adjacent.

Since Guyana has sovereign rights over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows, consequently, that only Guyana can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed.

This is precisely the issue that is before the ICJ, and which, on 18 December, 2020, the ICJ decided to resolve, i.e., whether Guyana or Venezuela has sovereignty over that territory.


Guyana is confident that the international court will resolve the issue in its favour, and that this will also settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed. But, under international law, this is now for the ICJ to decide.

On June 30, 2020, Guyana, in its virtual presentation in the Arbitral Award of October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) case said that not only is Venezuela’s current interpretation of the Geneva Agreement illogical and erroneous, but also in stark contrast to the interpretation the Spanish-speaking country had when it signed the very agreement in February 1966.

Represented by a battery of international lawyers, Guyana said the agreement, in unambiguous terms, empowered the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to determine an appropriate resolution mechanism to enable a peaceful settlement, which is the ICJ.

Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid, and that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela.

“At no time have we engaged in making any statements regarding the continuing inflammatory remarks emanating from the Government and other parties in Venezuela, except to continue to affirm our nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Ali said.


“We have always chosen a path of peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan issue within international law,” he affirmed on Saturday.

However, while President Maduro has rejected the decision of the ICJ issued on December 18, President Ali maintains that under international law, the court’s decision, which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of its judges, is final and legally binding on both Guyana and Venezuela.

He said it has long been a fundamental principle of international law that an international court, including the ICJ, has the competence to determine its own jurisdiction, as the ICJ did on December 18, 2020.
The United Nations Charter also obligates all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law, including as determined by the ICJ.

“In this connection, Venezuela does not have the “right” to “reject” the Court’s binding decision. What is more, its legal advisers would know that to do so is a flagrant breach of its legal obligations, and will not be accepted by the ICJ, the United Nations, or any other body that upholds international law, and its norms and practices,” President Ali lamented.

The Head of State, nevertheless, remains hopeful that the Venezuelan Government will reconsider its position, and decide to participate in the remainder of the proceedings before the ICJ, as the court decides upon the validity and binding character of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and the international boundary that it created.
“However, while I express that sincere hope, I also want to be clear that should Venezuela choose to boycott the ICJ’s proceedings, it will not deter nor delay the Court from adjudicating the case,” President Ali said, adding: “The rules of the Court expressly provide that the deliberate absence of one of the parties shall not prevent it from deciding a case.”

Unfortunately, in an effort to discredit the oldest and most respected global Court, Venezuela has ‘misrepresented’ the nature of the ICJ’s recent administrative acts. That act was to invite the parties to meet the President of the ICJ to ascertain the parties’ views on the scheduling of the written pleadings for the merits phase of the case. This is a standard practice for the court.

“Therefore, it is inaccurate, and misleading, for Venezuela to state that the Court has scheduled a ‘hearing’ on the substance of the case, without giving it sufficient time to prepare its case. In fact, Venezuela will have more than a year to prepare its case,” President Ali said.

President Ali has since instructed Foreign and International Cooperation Minister, Hugh Todd to summon the Officer-in-Charge of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown to the Foreign Ministry to express Guyana’s deep concern about the decree issued last Thursday.

The Officer-in-Charge at the embassy has been told to convey to the Venezuelan authorities in Caracas, that, in accordance with international law, and the assertion of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Guyana rejects entirely the decree issued by President Maduro.

Guyana, President Ali said, will continue on the path of peaceful resolution of this matter, in keeping with international law and the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
In the meantime, Guyana is alerting the international community, including sister states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of the recent illegal actions by Venezuela.

Story by Navendra Seoraj from Guyana Chronicle 01 10 2021


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