On Thursday, December 14th, in a significant development in the long-standing territorial dispute over the Essequibo region, the leaders of Venezuela and Guyana agreed not to use force to settle their differences. This agreement came after a tense meeting between Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the Caribbean, signaling a move toward a more diplomatic approach to resolving the conflict.
The Essequibo region, which constitutes over two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is home to 125,000 of its 800,000 citizens, has been a point of contention between the two nations for decades. Venezuela’s claim to the Essequibo region dates back to the Spanish colonial period, while Guyana maintains that the Essequibo territory is rightfully theirs based on a border drawn by international arbitrators in 1899.
The recent meeting, mediated by regional groups CELAC and CARICOM, resulted in an 11-point declaration where both leaders agreed to “not threaten or use force against one another” and to “refrain from escalating any conflict” in the Essequibo region. This agreement marks a crucial step towards a peaceful resolution, although the core issue remains unresolved.
Tensions escalated recently when Venezuela held a referendum to establish a Venezuelan state in the Essequibo region, a move perceived by Guyana as a pretext for a land grab. The meeting’s outcome, however, indicates a willingness from both sides to engage in dialogue and seek a peaceful solution.
The joint commission, composed of foreign ministers and other officials from both countries, has been tasked with addressing the issue and is expected to report on the Essequibo region and the situation within three months. The impasse was evident during the meeting, with Guyana insisting on resolving the controversy through the International Court of Justice while Venezuela argued that the court lacks jurisdiction.
Guyanese President Ali, during a break in talks with Maduro, reaffirmed Guyana’s stance, stating that Essequibo is an integral part of Guyana and not subject to negotiation. Venezuelan President Maduro, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of maintaining peace in the region.
The United States, through White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, expressed its close monitoring of the Essequibo region situation, emphasizing the need for a peaceful resolution without resorting to military action.
As both nations have put their militaries on alert and Maduro has ordered state-owned companies to explore and exploit resources in Essequibo, the international community remains watchful.