Guyana, Venezuela to meet in St Vincent over border dispute

The presidents of Guyana and Venezuela are set to hold talks in an effort to settle tension between both countries over disputed territory.

Ralph Gonsalves

The talks were brokered by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is head of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Both leaders held phone calls with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro where a face-to-face meeting was proposed. The meeting will take place on December 14th in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Gonsalves told reporters the “discussion would relate to matters consequential upon the border controversy which exists between Guyana and Venezuela.”

The discussion was one which Gonsalves said he was hoping to have taken place between the countries as their relations soured in months.

Shridath Ramphal

When asked by reporters what he hopes will be the outcome of these talks, Gonsalves said all he wants is peace between two nations that St Vincent and the Grenadines considers friends.

“I can’t answer what is going to be the outcome. What I do know with certainty, that it is better for people in conflict to be talking,” Gonsalves said.

When asked further about what was the value of hosting the meeting when Guyana has made it clear that it wants the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to decide on the matter, Gonsalves responded by saying “there are many things to be addressed.”

“And the matter of the commitment to international law, the commitment to peace, to maintain the region as a zone of peace, and not to go to open conflict…Guyana and Venezuela are neighbours…They are where they are and they have to live together,” Gonsalves said.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves is hoping that the Organisation of American States (OAS) will shelve a debate set for Monday on a resolution, which could see further action taken against Venezuela.

Irfaan Ali and Nicolas Maduro

He said the region “must not allow anything to derail this initial face-to-face dialogue or subsequent ones.”

Meanwhile, former Commonwealth Secretary-General and respected Caribbean Statesman, Sir Shridath Ramphal, in the lead-up to the meeting between Guyana and Venezuela in St Vincent and the Grenadines, warned that false expectations should not be encouraged. 

In a statement, Ramphal says it is important that the limits of the talks in St Vincent and the Grenadines are understood. The seasoned Guyanese politician says false expectations should not be encouraged. He says for decades, CARICOM has been the most vocal and consistent supporter of Guyana with regard to the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. 

Ramphal says never was that support more evident than when its Heads of Government held an emergency meeting in that context on December 8, 2023. 

“They did not falter. CARICOM Heads repeated where they stood on the most critical aspects of the current situation, namely:

1.   That they ‘firmly support (s) Guyana in pursuance of the resolution of its border controversy with Venezuela through the process of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’.

2.   That they ‘urge Venezuela to respect the conservatory measures determined by the ICJ in its recent ruling until a final resolution’.

3.   That they reiterate (d) CARICOM’s ‘commitment to the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace and the maintenance of international law’.”

He says it is in that context, and with perfect awareness that the Guyana-Venezuela matter is under consideration by the ICJ and that the Court’s proceedings cannot be compromised, that CARICOM Heads have called for an ‘appropriate’ dialogue between the leaders of Guyana and Venezuela: to ensure ‘peaceful co-existence’, ‘the application and respect for international law’, and ‘the avoidance of the use or threats of force’.