Geneva Agreement (1966)
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The Agreement to Resolve the Controversy over the Frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana, commonly known as the Geneva Agreement, is a treaty signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 17, 1966 that resolved the disagreement between Venezuela and the United Kingdom regarding the border between Venezuela and British Guiana. Signed by representatives of Venezuela and the United Kingdom, as well as the Prime Minister of British Guiana, the treaty detailed steps for resolution of the border controversy. The disagreement originated in Venezuela's contention that the "Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guyana and Venezuela is null and void", followed by Venezuela declaring ownership of a large portion of Guyana's territory.
The Geneva Agreement was published in the Nº 28.008 Official Gazette of Venezuela of 15 April 1996 and subsequently registered by Venezuela on 5 May 1966 in the General Office of the Organization of the United Nations under registration number Nº I-8192.
Three months later after signing the agreement, on 26 May 1966, the British Guyana colony received independence, being called from then on Republic of Guyana (and since 1970 Cooperative Republic of Guyana), date from which the new State becomes part of the agreement as a sovereign and independent country along with the United Kingdom and Venezuela, although it totally substitutes the United Kingdom in the conversations with Venezuela regarding the borderline disagreement
The Geneva Agreement is a transitory agreement to come to a definitive solution, many define it as an "agreement to reach an agreement" and although in the Venezuelan interpretation invalidates the 1899 award, the status quo that it derived is maintained. Therefore, the area under complaint is under the authority of the Government of Guyana until something different is resolved according to the treaty. The first article of the document states that the contention of Venezuela to consider the decision of the court that defined its border with British Guyana as null and void is recognized. When the United Kingdom and Guyana (then British Guyana) signed the agreement, they recognized the claim and disagreement of Venezuela, remembering then to find a peaceful, practical, and satisfactory solution for the parties.
The Geneva Agreement establishes the creation of a Mixed Commission composed of representatives of Venezuela and British Guyana (United Kingdom, despite being signatory part to the treaty, has no participation in the commission) which within a period of 4 years would have to decide what could be the solution to the borderline problem, once this period has expires, the Protocol of Port Spain between Guyana, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela was signed in 1970 for which it was frozen, for a term of 12 years, part of the Geneva Agreement. In 1982, Venezuela decided not to ratify the Protocol of Port Spain and returned to what was established in the agreement.
In 1983, Venezuela proposed direct negotiation with Guyana but Guyana does not accept and proposes three alternatives: the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Security Council or the International Court of Justice, which Venezuela rejects.
That same year of 1983, at the initiative of Venezuela, the border conflict is held under the auspices of the General Secretary of the United Nations, in concordance with the predicted in the article IV, paragraph 2 of the agreement and attached to the article 33º of the Letter of the United Nations regarding the means of peaceful settlements of disputes.
In 1987, Guyana and Venezuela decided to accept the method of the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes that starts working since 1989 in the person of a Good Officiant (Diego Cordovés) elected and accepted by the parties. This figure has the function of bringing both governments closer so that they reach a satisfactory solution as dictated by the treaty.
Official positions of the countries
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The positions of the parties arise from a different interpretations of Article 1 of the agreement.
For Guyana, the purpose of the agreement is initially to determine if the Arbitrary Award of Paris is null and void and that, unless Venezuela proves the nullity, for the Guyanese State the award is a final judgement.
For Venezuela, the purpose of the agreement is to commit the parties to reach a satisfactory solution for practical agreement between the two countries. It considers that the nullity of the Arbitrary Award of Paris is implicitly and explicitly demonstrated and accepted in the text of the document, signed by Guyana when it was still a colony, and that without this recognition, the agreement simply did not make sense of Guyana should have signed it.
On the 52nd anniversary of the international treaty being signed in Switzerland, Venezuelan Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the Geneva Agreement. President Nicolas Maduro has called on the Venezuelan people to defend their "legitimate and non-renounceable" territorial rights over the Essequibo region. Defense Minister Vladamir Padrino Lopez stresses that Venezuelans should continue to claim their territory and stated on his social media "The Sun of Venezuela is born in the Essequibo."
The agreement was criticized in Guyana for having reopening a case that, for them, was closed. Indeed, Cheddi Jagan who opposed the agreement y for then was the chief of the Guyanese opposition, founder of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), and in later years was president of the republic, in his work The West on Trial (1996), regretted the reopening of the case.
Venezuela considers the agreement to be a valuable—but flawed—part of the process of negotiation. Venezuela claims that the United Kingdom granted independence to its colony without resolving the border problem and protests that the character of a "state" has been granted to a colony that did not possess it. Venezuela further contends that the original perception was of itself as a weaker nation usurped by the colonial power of United Kingdom; now the poor and recently independent Guyana would look to be the weaker nation facing a richer, more powerful country like Venezuela.
- Guayana Esequiba, territory administered by Guyana which is claimed by Venezuela
- Venezuelan crisis of 1895
- Odeen Ishmael, The Trail Of Diplomacy: A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue, GNI Publications, 2013
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- Secretary-General Appoints Norman Girvan of Jamaica as Personal Representative on Border Controversy Between Guyana, Venezuela
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