Irfaan Ali: I will be there for appropriate dialogue

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Guyana President Irfaan Ali –

Rishard Khan

Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali is hoping good sense will prevail when talks are held with Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro in St Vincent on Thursday.

His wish came in an address to the nation as the country observed a day of prayer on Sunday, in memory of the five Guyana Defence Force servicemen who died on Wednesday when their Bell 412 helicopter, 8R-AYA, crashed near the Venezuelan border during an operation. Ali said he immediately consulted with all stakeholders including attorneys, technocrats and the Leader of the Opposition when invited by St Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to the meeting last Friday. Gonsalves is also the president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).“I have made it very clear that on the issue of the border controversy, Guyana’s position is non-negotiable. That is, this is before the ICJ. “We expect that good sense would prevail and the commitment to peace, stability (and) the threat of disruption will cease and I assure all Guyanese, all our investors, our development in all ten of our administrative regions, all three of our counties will continue unimpeded,” he said.While he is hoping for the best at Thursday’s meeting, Dr Ali said all training operations, joint operations and defence cooperations will continue as planned “as we strengthen every system in our country, as we work towards ensuring Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is never compromised.” “We do so with every hope of maintaining a peaceful environment in which every country in this region can coexist in accordance with international laws and principles in respect of each other, without the threat of force or use of force. We as a country and as a people and our allies and friends always believe that we must stand on the side of what is right, we must always stand on the side of principle and must uphold the principle that defines us.” Gonsalves said Thursday’s 10 am meeting would take place under the auspices of CELAC and the Caribbean Community (Caricom). Both parties also requested the presence of Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who will act as an observer to the discussions. On Sunday, Ali shared his letter to Gonsalves. In it, he said, “I will be there in answer to the call by colleague Caricom heads of Government on December 9, 2023, for appropriate dialogue between the leaders of Venezuela and Guyana to ensure peaceful co-existence, the application and respect for international law and the avoidance of the use or threats of force.”

He continued, “In making that call, Caricom colleagues reasserted that they: firmly support(s) Guyana in pursuance of the resolution of its border controversy with Venezuela through the process of the ICJ (International Court of Justice); urge(s) Venezuela to respect the conservatory measures determined by the ICJ in its recent ruling until a final resolutio; reiterate(s) its commitment to the Caribbbean as a zone of peace and the maintenance of international law.”

Ali said it is in the framework of those Caricom committments, he “shall participate on December 14, 2023, ‘for appropriate dialogue’” with Maduro.

His letter was copied to the Venezuelan president, the Brazillian president, Caricom’s chairman Roosevelt Skerritt, who is also Dominica’s prime minister and Dr Carla Barnett, secretary general of the Caribbean Community.

At an emergency meeting on Friday, Caricom, which strongly supports Guyana, called for the two countries to de-escalate the conflict and hold dialogue. Before the meeting, both Maduro and Ali tweeted they were open to discussions.