Browne: Respect Caribbean Sea as zone of peace

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Dr Amery Browne – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne says the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana is the subject of ongoing deliberations across the Caricom.

The Venezuelan government, led by president Nicholas Maduro, has been seeking to establish ownership over the resource-rich Essequibo region which makes up two-thirds of Guyana. Guyana is opposing that claim and the matter is now before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On Sunday, Venezuela’s government conducted a referendum which sought the views of its population on their country’s claim to the Essequibo region. Government officials said ten million Venezuelans participated in the vote and the support given for each of five questions claiming Venezuela’s rights over the Essequibo and rejecting the remit of the ICJ ranged from 95.4-98.11 per cent.

On Monday, Browne spoke to media after the opening ceremony for the Caricom Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) Focal Point Attachment Programme at the BRIX Hotel, St Ann’s, Port of Spain. He could not say if the issue was on the agenda for the meeting.

“Caricom continues to speak with one united voice on this issue and will continue to do so.”

He acknowledged this country’s trade ties with Venezuela but insisted TT remained in agreement with Caricom. He said Caricom nations were stronger together.

“As a founding member of Caricom and a strong participant in Caricom’s deliberations, formulations and public pronouncements, TT is fully identified and reflected in the Caricom statement.”

Browne then commented on the position of the Opposition UNC that the TT government should mediate between Guyana and Venezuela in the dispute.

“I must say that I have been very disturbed by some voices coming from the opposition in this country, which, once again, is trying to make itself an outlier. (It is) trying to insert itself into foreign-policy matters in which it has demonstrated very little expertise and an appetite for division and negative views.

“Any calls for TT to insert itself into the controversy in the form of mediation or direct negotiation are in direct contradiction, a direct violation of the policy of Guyana, a sovereign member of Caricom, on this dispute.

“So those are very ill-founded calls and only serve to distract as opposed to contributing to a progressive environment.”

Browne reminded that the border dispute was before the ICJ pending determination.

He reiterated the government’s call for peace and respect for the internationally recognised borders of all nations, including the borders of Guyana.

“TT will always be part of a movement for peace and respect for international law.

“That’s our consistent position.

“I want to remind you this is not the only border controversy affecting Caricom member states. There’s also one affecting Belize at the border between Belize and Guatemala.

“We continue to call on all parties to respect the Caribbean Sea as a zone of peace and for all to conduct themselves in accordance with peace.”

When asked whether the border dispute could affect the CSME focal point of freedom of movement and the initiative being taken to mitigate any possible challenges, he said, “No, I don’t see any challenges there at all.”