Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro –
VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro said he came in peace, to do his country’s business, in a tweet on landing at the Argyle Airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Thursday for talks with Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali.
The talks are aimed at de-escalating the row over the oil-rich Essequibo region.
The meeting was called by Caricom, chaired by Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) chairman SVG Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
Maduro and Ali each arrived separately with their contingents, their arrivals recorded in video clips posted online respectively by Caracas-based Telsur and Guyana News Room.
Gonsalves greeted each leader warmly on the runway.
They were also met by a military guard of honour, as dozens of media personnel swarmed around, including reporters from Guyana and Venezuela.
On landing, Maduro who was wearing a white shirt, as if to symbolise peace, like several others in his contingent, embraced Gonsalves in a comradely bear hug and then kissed his host’s wife, Eloise Gonsalves.
Maduro tweeted on Twitter/X, “We arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines, with the flag of peace and the mandate of the Venezuelan people held high.”
In another tweet, Maduro said, “We arrived in SVG with the mandate of the people of Venezuela to advance through dialogue and the word of peace, defending the rights of the people and our homeland. We are seeking effective, satisfactory and practical solutions as mandated by the Geneva Agreement.
“I am pleased that CELAC and Caricom have achieved this step. We will make the most of it for peace!”
Guyana News Room via Twitter reported Gonsalves as saying, “We have two leaders who are mature and wise, Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela and I expect them to apply their maturity and wisdom and patience and calm.”
Ali arrived in a blue business suit, sporting a wristband displaying an outline of Guyana inclding the Essequibo region, according to a post on his Facebook page.
He was greeted by Gonsalves, with his wife, who walked with him in an embrace as they went into the airport with his contingent to meet other Caricom leaders.
These included Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Rowley, Skeritt, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis. TT’s Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne was also present, along with CELAC and UN officials.
At about 11 am, the Office of the Prime Minister said in a Facebook post that Caricom leaders were meeting ahead of Ali and Maduro’s arrival, displaying a photo of leaders, including Dr Rowley, around a table.
The Guyana Chronicle on Twitter/X reported Ali as telling Caricom leaders the border controversy must be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“The Head of State said that Guyana’s only intention is to secure, ensure peace, security in the region.”
Guyana News Room reported Ali with Caricom leaders reiterating Guyana’s fundamental position in accepting the invitation, that the border controversy was “not up for discussion, negotiation or deliberation.”
Maduro then joined the meeting. He and Ali shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Maduro shook hands with Brazilian retired minister/diplomat Celso Amorim, named to chair the talks.
Maduro sat at the mid-point of a long table, directly opposite Ali, as Gonsalves asked the media to leave the room. Venezuelan vice president Delcy Rodriguez sat behind her leader.
The Venezuela-based news agency Telesur reported, “Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro explained the purpose of this first conversation with Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali.
“It is to seek, through dialogue and negotiation, effective, satisfactory, and practical solutions, as mandated by the Geneva Agreement.”
The meeting came after Gonsalves warned against any escalation over the Essequibo.
Maduro raised tensions over Guyana’s oil-rich Essequibo region earlier this month by declaring it part of Venezuela. He issued a map portraying the Essequibo as part of an enlarged Venezuela, named a purported military governor of the area, ordered Venezuelan companies to undertake and administer oil exploration, and promised a census of the local population, who would all be issued Venezuelan ID cards.
The sudden moves followed a referendum in which the Venezuelan Government claimed ten million voters overwhelmingly supporting Venezuela’s claim to the Essequibo and a rejection of the ICJ’s remit in this dispute.
Maduro’s move defied the ICJ’s recent order for Venezuela to refrain from any action on the Essequibo. It also comes against a backdrop of Brazil moving troops to its border and the US Southern Command announcing military flights over the Essequibo.
Last Saturday, Gonsalves invited Ali and Maduro to the talks, which Brazil President Lula da Silva was asked to chair, but who instead named Amorim.
Gonsalves had urged Ali and Maduro to summon the proverbial “wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the foresight of all the ancient prophets” to engender neighbourliness, peace, justice, security and prosperity. He said, “This is a complicated question, but it is not beyond the leaders to help to save the region from intense conflict which will bring about lots of pain and suffering, and will set back this region more than a generation.”