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Monday, April 03, 2006
Guyana, Venezuela seek Good Officer meeting in border controversy before May 15
Stabroek News
The Venezuelan Delegation to the fourth Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission meeting at the Foreign Service Institute last week. Second from left is the head of the delegation Vice Minister of External Relations for Latin America and the Carib

Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to instruct the facilitators in the UN Good Offices Process to coordinate with theUnited Nations Secretary- General Good Officer about convening a meeting before May 15, 2006 in a bid to search for a peaceful solution to the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.

The UN Good Offices Pro-cess was established in 1982 under the aegis of the UN Secretary General.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Rudy Insanally told Stabroek News on Saturday after the signing of the agreed minutes of the Fourth Meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) at the Foreign Service Institute on New Garden Street that the facilitators would be asked to coordinate with the UN Good Officer, Ambassador Oliver Jackman to convene a meeting with them before May 15. After this the Good Officer would brief the ministers of foreign affairs on the movement of the process prior to their meeting with the UN Secretary General in Septem-ber this year. Guyana's Facilitator is Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran. The facilitators are supposed to meet twice annually.

Noting that the facilitators have not met for over a year, Insanally said, "We want to keep it alive because both sides see value in the mechanism to ensure that the controversy on our hands is resolved peacefully, and that best guarantee is if it remains in the hands of the [UN] Secretary General. He said that the facilitators had not met for various reasons, including changes of government in Venezuela and difficulty in finding common timings. However, he added, " We are certainly determined to resuscitate it and put in on a good track."

Also in brief remarks to Stabroek News Venezuela's Vice Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs Pavel Rondon underlined the atmosphere of political cordiality that had prevailed during the meeting and noted that the commission had agreed that their "relationship at the political level should be based on self-determination, cooperation and recognition of sovereignty between our two countries. That was begun when our two presidents met in Guyana in 2004 [during Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez visit to Guyana]. This would enable the work in our groups to be easy, quick and broad in scope."

He said too, "The whole effort to integration demands greater communication based on better electronic means and by land and air, and we are working on those areas." He added that sometimes the agreements advanced no further than the paper stage, hence the agreement to strengthen links from embassy to embassy and ministry to ministry.

Urging the media to be aware of agreements made and to follow up with the respective embassies and ministries to see how far the agreements had been implemented, "because we want this to be very concrete," he said that a lot of the activities agreed to at this HLBC meeting had been dated.

Meanwhile, on other issues, the joint press statement issued at the end of the meeting said that the heads of the two delegations recognized that the Petrocaribe initiative, which is intended to maximize the effective management and utilization of energy resources, represented a fundamental underpinning of regional integration and poverty alleviation. The HLBC agreed that efforts would be made to accelerate the finalisation of discussions aimed at Guyana's access to petroleum and petroleum products under the scheme.

During the meeting the sub-committees on political consultations, transport and culture met, and the heads of the delegations also reviewed the work of the various sub-committees.

The joint statement said that the sub-committee on culture had identified different areas to be included in a new cultural exchange programme for the years 2006 to 2008.

In the sub-committee on transport, the Venezuelan side made a commitment to give a response to Guyana on the proposal with respect to Article 3 (a) of the draft Memorandum of Understand-ing on Cooperation in the area of telecommunication. Both sides also agreed to work towards the early conclusion of a bilateral air services agreement.

Because the potential for trade and investment between the two countries, while significant, was to a large extent unrealized, they agreed that a mission of Venezuelan businessmen would pay a visit to Guyana with a view to establishing contacts with their Guyanese counterparts and exploring the possibilities for trade and investment.

They expressed satisfaction at the progress achieved within the Joint Guyana/ Vene-zuela Technical Committee on the proposed link between the two countries under the Inte-gration of Regional Infra-structure of South America (IIRSA) and agreed to an early meeting of the technical committee to discuss the terms of reference for the execution of the feasibility studies for the road link.

At the meeting, too, the invitation for President Bharrat Jagdeo to visit Venezuela, which was first extended during President Chavez's visit to Guyana was reiterated. Insanally said that the just concluded HLBC meeting could also be seen as a preparatory meeting for Jagdeo's visit to Venezuela.

On regional and international affairs, Guyana's assumption of the chairmanship of the Rio Group was seen as providing significant possibilities for greater cooperation and understanding between the English-speaking Caribbean and Latin America, including coordinating positions and forging consensus on issues of concern for the region.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the commission would be convened in Caracas, Venezuela, during the first quarter of next year.

The other sub-committees deal with the environment; trade and economic cooperation; health, agriculture, livestock and agro-industry; transportation; consular matters; the mixed commission on drugs; and the working group on hydro-biological resources.

A schedule for the convening meetings of those sub-committees which did not meet on this occasion were agreed on, with priority being placed on an early meeting of the sub-committees on health, hydro-biological resources and the mixed commission on drugs.

Where the latter in particular was concerned, the delegation heads agreed that owing to the increasing threats posed to the security of states by the illicit trafficking in drugs and arms, the two countries would cooperate and coordinate activities as far as possible and the mixed commission on drugs would meet before the end of June 2006.

It was emphasised that greater focus should be placed on the monitoring and review of the agreed activities of the various sub-committees to ensure effective implementation, and focal points were identified to advance the implementation of the activities of the HLBC. (Miranda La Rose)