NEW YORK: Following a meeting last weekend, the presidents of Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to restore diplomatic relations and return their ambassadors to their posts. A special technical committee has also been established by the United Nations (UN) to find a solution to the longstanding border dispute between the two nations.
The meeting between President Nicholas Granger of Guyana and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro was chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Despite the show of good faith, tensions remain. The UN chief had to make a request for the two to shake hands as they appeared before the media, and the two smiled briefly as the cameras flashed.
Maduro acknowledged the discussions were “tense and difficult”.
Granger, speaking with Guyanese media after the meeting, maintained that Venezuela was to blame for the current state of affairs.
The meeting was requested by Maduro to discuss a resolution in respect to the border dispute. Venezuela has been laying claim to the vast mineral-rich area of jungle west of the Essequibo River, which accounts for about 40 per cent of Guyana’s territory, since the 19th century. Guyana says that after agreeing to relinquish the Essequibo following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, Venezuela backtracked on the decision. Caracas insists the 1899 ruling was unfair and the territory is still in dispute.
Earlier this year, Maduro also extended Venezuela’s maritime claims after Exxon Mobil announced it had made a significant oil discovery in Guyana’s territorial waters.
“The two presidents expressed willingness to continue to engage in dialogue, and announced during the meeting that they would receive their respective ambassadors in order to ensure a return to fully fledged diplomatic representation in both capitals in the nearest future,” read a statement from the UN Secretary General’s office.
In the statement, the UN praised “the willingness of Presidents Granger and Maduro to uphold their countries’ tradition of dialogue while a path toward resolution of the controversy is crafted that will be beneficial to both countries and their peoples”.
The UN technical committee will visit Venezuela to investigate that country’s claim on the Essequibo. It will undertake a comprehensive assessment on the circumstances of the Essequibo and then set a deadline for resolving the conflict through regular channels.
The dispute between the two countries has seen the leaders engaging in a war of words, suspending diplomatic relations and making several accusations and counter-accusations.
Last week, Guyana expressed concern about the increased Venezuelan military presence at the border between the two countries and said it would be monitoring the situation and putting its own troops on standby. However, Venezuela said it was conducting military exercises.