UK says 1899 Arbitral Award settled Guyana/Venezuela border

-Canada supports Guyana
-call for early release of fishing crew, vessels

The United Kingdom (UK) has said it is concerned that Venezuelan vessels have detained two Guyanese fishing vessels and 12 seamen and is calling for their release.

The UK joined Canada on Thursday in conveying its support for Guyana, in the wake of Venezuela’s increasing aggression and illegal manoeuvring within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Contiguous Zone.

“The UK is concerned at reports that Venezuelan vessels have detained Guyanese fishing vessels and crew. We call for their early release. The UK is clear that the 1899 Arbitral Award settled the border between Guyana and Venezuela,” a statement from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office read.

It continued that the UK is encouraging a bilateral resolution to the issue.

The Government of Canada has expressed similar sentiments.  “Canada supports Guyana in calling for the immediate release of two Guyanese vessels that were detained by the Maduro regime. We repeat our call for International law to be respected,” it said in a statement.

The UK and Canada have joined the United States, CARICOM, France, the Organisation of American States, Belize and other countries in condemning Venezuela’s aggression and in calling for the safe return of the Guyanese.

Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said it has noted an increase in illegal actions by Venezuela since President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree on January 7 claiming Guyana’s territory. 

On Thursday, January 21, the Venezuelan navy intercepted the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf and their crew off the coast at Waini Point and illegally detained them at Port Guiria in Venezuela.

Minister Hon. Hugh Todd has said the fishing crews were well within Guyana’s EEZ and, in fact it was the Venezuelan vessels which had breached Guyana’s territory when it intercepted and detained the Guyanese crew.

In his address to the nation on January 9, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali said the decree issued by Venezuela was a “legal nullity” which will not be recognised by any state in the world.

Guyana also maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Award is valid and legally binding.

President Ali reminded that “sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, whose validity and legally binding character Guyana is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold unequivocally.”

The President is confident that the ICJ would rule in Guyana’s favour, upholding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award. Dr. Ali has also said Guyana would continue on the peaceful path to resolution on this matter in keeping with international law, and has encouraged Venezuela to do the same.