The embittered territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela over the sprawling Essequibo region, a bone of contention since the 19th century, has recently heated up. With tensions flaring over oil discoveries off the Essequibo coast, the quarrel has drawn the gaze of regional leaders and international diplomats.
Venezuela's New Plan
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's fresh action plan, encompassing the issuance of oil exploration licenses and military deployments near the disputed territory, has sparked international concern. However, Maduro's strategy fell short of announcing any intrusion into the area. These developments have triggered an increased military presence in the region, with Brazil reinforcing its border city of Boa Vista to ensure territorial inviolability.
International Diplomacy in Action
Guyana's Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud, has briefed the diplomatic corps about the recent events, emphasizing the need for sustained bilateral and multilateral support. Diplomats from around the globe have weighed in. British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller, found the briefing useful, while China's Ambassador Guo Haiyan expressed hope for a peaceful resolution. Also, Nicole D. Theriot, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, stated that the U.S. is contemplating its response to Venezuela's announcement. Matthew Miller from the U.S. State Department called on both nations to pursue peaceful resolution, underscoring the importance of the 1899 Arbitral Award that demarcated the land boundary between the two countries.
Guyana's Stand and Future Developments
Guyana's President, Irfaan Ali, has vociferously condemned Venezuela's plan, terming it a potential threat to Guyana's territorial integrity and global peace. He announced precautionary measures to protect his nation. This controversy has seen a significant escalation since 2018, with the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) involvement. The ICJ has asked Venezuela to abstain from actions that would alter the status quo. However, Maduro has rebuffed the ICJ's mediation, emboldened by a recent non-binding referendum where Venezuelans voted against recognizing the international court's jurisdiction. In the coming months, the ICJ will issue a binding decision, eagerly awaited by both nations.