U.N. Secretary General António Guterres will refer the Guyana-Venezuela border spat to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for settlement, a senior Foreign Ministry official confirmed Tuesday.
Guterres “has carefully analyzed developments in 2017 in the good office's process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, said.
“Accordingly, the Secretary-General has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.
“The Secretary-General, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations, remains committed to accompanying both States as they seek to overcome their differences regarding this border controversy.”
Guyana's Foreign Minister Audrey Waddell welcomed the UN Chief’s decision: “Guyana will not allow factors extraneous to the controversy to influence its referral to the Court, but it will continue the advancement of peaceful relations with Venezuela whose people are the brothers and sisters of Guyanese.
"In this context, Guyana acknowledges the Secretary General’s suggestions for the immediate future,” the statement said.
The decision comes after Venezuelan lawyer Severo Mallet-Prevost revealed how Russia and Britain made a secret deal in order to influence the judges over the definition of the borders during the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made an initial request for a U.N. Good Offices mediation in July 2015 after Guyana began exploratory measures to extract oil in the disputed Esequibo territory. Formal talks between the two countries and United Nations representative Dag Nylander from Norway began in September, but failed to reach an agreement.
Both Venezuela and Guyana have committed to increasing dialogue in the past, in spite of intervention by foreign oil companies which has created a divide between the neighbouring nations.
Guyana's legal fees have received a US$18 million bonus from oil giant ExxonMobil, after the company recently reported in 2015 that it had made a significant oil discovery in an area disputed by the two countries.