By Robert A. Emmanuel
Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government will be participating in an emergency meeting called today to discuss the ongoing situation involving fellow Caricom nation Guyana, which is currently in a dispute with Venezuela over the Essequibo region.
The centuries-old dispute over the oil rich region has escalated in recent weeks, with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holding a referendum which Guyana has called a step towards annexing the region.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed that the Heads of Government will be meeting virtually on the matter.
“That is indeed correct, and again, you know, we stand in solidarity with the Republic of Guyana, our sister Caribbean country; we stand in support of their territorial integrity.
“But, at the same time, we want to make sure that we could still have good relations with Venezuela to dialogue with them to reduce the muscular rhetoric, and Antigua and Barbuda continues to stand ready as an entity that could become an arbiter in the dispute and to de-escalate the issue because the last thing we want is any form of conflict within the hemisphere,” PM Browne stated.
An International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling ordered Venezuela to not engage in action that would alter Guyana’s control of the Essequibo region, which Guyana has controlled since the 1899 Paris Arbitral Award.
Caricom issued a statement following the ruling, welcoming the ICJ decision which has been criticised by Venezuela.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan President has encouraged companies in his country to begin the process to immediately exploit oil and natural resources in the Essequibo region.
Prime Minister Browne added that it was important for the region to take proactive steps to reduce tensions.
“It’s always in our interest to be proactive in our leadership and to try and encourage them — entities that are violating or entities that are promoting any form of conflict — to cease and desist,” he noted.