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‘Guyana remains on high alert’ – Pres. Ali tells BBC – Kaieteur News

President Irfaan Ali

Kaieteur News – In an exclusive interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio on Sunday, President Irfan Ali, addressing the border controversy with Venezuela said that while Guyana has intensely focused on diplomacy and the maintenance of peace, the country remains on high alert.

The long-standing border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela revolves around Venezuela’s claim to a significant portion of Guyana, which includes the entire Essequibo region and its offshore exclusive economic zone.

Expressing serious concerns about Venezuela’s rhetoric and behavior, President Ali highlighted the need to take President Nicolas Maduro’s statements seriously. He emphasized the potential consequences of reckless behavior and adventurous rhetoric, calling for a peaceful resolution through international legal mechanisms.

“The rhetoric out of Venezuela and the behaviour and attitude of the President and Vice President necessitate serious concerns, and we cannot be caught wanting. As the President of Guyana, we have to take everything that the President and the military say very seriously, and their rhetoric has not been an encouraging one,” the Guyanese leader asserted.

Acknowledging the importance of being alert and prepared, President Ali revealed that Guyana maintains a high state of military readiness. However, he emphasized that diplomacy remains the first line of defense, with Guyana mobilizing global support.

Moreover, the President expressed gratitude for the backing received from the international community. He assured that the government will spare no effort to protect Guyana’s territory and its people.

“We have been mobilising around the globe. And I must say that the international community has supported Guyana tremendously, and has issued very strong statements; the Commonwealth, CARICOM, the OAS, France, the UK (United Kingdom), Canada, the US government. So, with our partners, we’re not taking this lightly whilst, at the same time, we are monitoring the situation,” President Ali affirmed.

Venezuela accepted the 1899 Arbitral Award for over six decades before contending that it was “null and void” – as such Guyana initiated legal proceedings in March 2018 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), actively pursuing a binding judgment to assert its ownership of the Essequibo region. However, Venezuela has since opted to conduct a “consultative referendum” scheduled to be held on Sunday December 3, 2023. This referendum seeks to gauge public support for Venezuela’s decisions regarding the Essequibo region.

On Friday the ICJ ordered Venezuela not to take any action that would alter Guyana’s control over its Essequibo region, but did not specifically ban Venezuela from holding its planned referendum.

During the BBC interview, the head-of-state also shed light on historical perspectives.

President Ali emphasized the significance of the 1899 Arbitral Award, considering it as the full and final settlement of the border. He highlighted Venezuela’s active participation in the process, jointly establishing boundary markers with Guyana. The controversy arose decades later, just before Guyana’s independence, leading to the involvement of the 1966 Geneva agreement.

President Ali stressed that the ICJ had been chosen as the avenue for a full settlement and urged Venezuela to abide by international law and engage in the ICJ process. President Irfan Ali concluded the interview by reaffirming Guyana’s commitment to resolving the border controversy peacefully through diplomatic means and the ICJ process.

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