Leaders of Venezuela and Guyana to meet amid border dispute

The planned meeting comes after Venezuela threatened to annex the oil-rich territory of Esequibo currently in Guyana.

A man walks in front of a mural of the Venezuelan map with the Essequibo territory included, in Caracas, Venezuela
The bilateral meeting is set to take place on December 14 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines [File: Matias Delacroix/AP Photo]

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro will meet Guyana President Mohamed Irfaan Ali amid a territorial dispute between the two countries, according to a letter from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Tensions have been mounting between Venezuela and Guyana in recent weeks due to a long-running border dispute over Esequibo, an area in Guyana where massive discoveries of offshore oil and gas have been made.

The bilateral meeting is set to take place on December 14 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where they will be accompanied by Gonsalves.

Venezuela’s government said the meeting “is in order to preserve our aspiration to maintain Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace”.

The Office of the President of Guyana confirmed Ali had agreed to the meeting, but added, “Guyana’s land boundary is not up for discussion.”

The regional blocs of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are mediating to bring the parties together.

Earlier on Saturday, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has also been invited to Thursday’s meeting as an observer, spoke to Maduro and called for dialogue, saying it was important to avoid unilateral measures that could escalate the situation.

Venezuela has for decades laid claim to Essequibo, claiming that the Essequibo River to the region’s east forms a natural border and has historically been recognised as such.

The country’s latest efforts to overtake the territory were piqued in 2015 when ExxonMobil announced it had found oil in commercial quantities off the Essequibo coast.

Last weekend, voters in Venezuela also rejected the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) jurisdiction over the area, backing the creation of a new state.

Maduro also proposed a government meeting that a bill be sent to the National Assembly for the creation of a “Guyana Esequiba” province.

However, Guyana, of which Essequibo makes up more than two-thirds and hosts 125,000 of its 800,000 citizens, has administered the territory since the frontiers were determined by an arbitration panel in 1899.

Source: News Agencies