ICJ case…cautions likelihood of lengthy processBy Jarryl BryanOn the heels of Guyana submitting its border case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the call by the Venezuela Government to return to the Good Offices Process, Government is adamant that the wheels are in motion.Registrar of the International Court of Justice, Philippe Couvreur (left) and Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl GreenidgeAccording to Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge in a statement on Tuesday, the application Guyana filed on March 29 is seeking a final and binding judgement on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.“Coming from the principal judicial organ of the (United Nations) UN, such a judgement will once and for all put to rest this baseless contention. As you are aware, Guyana has suffered from Venezuela’s contention of nullity ever since our independence in 1966,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.“This assertion has undermined our ability to develop our sovereign territory and resources, including our natural wealth in the sea. By means of a judgement of the court, our objective is to put this controversy to a definitive end so Guyana and Venezuela can live together as neighbours without the shadow of this conflict.”Greenidge noted that with the Good Offices process being officially brought to an end by Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the process for this final judgement has started.Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal will lead the legal team“We will now await the response of the Court to our application,” Greenidge affirmed. “Venezuela of course has the right to respond and disagree with Guyana’s position on the validity of the 1899 Award. But either way, the process leading to a final judgement has now been set into motion.”“This judicial process will unfold in several stages and the Government of Guyana will periodically inform the public of its progress. This is likely to be a lengthy process, but having waited more than 50 years, we are fully committed to seeing it through until the very end.”Describing it as a “great moment” in the international and regional rule of law and an example for the peaceful resolution of conflict, the Minister was hopeful it would result in better relations with Venezuela.Since the UN’s decision to send the matter to the ICJ, Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro had been quoted publicly affirming that his Government did not agree with the decision, and that continued negotiations would have been preferable.Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have been rocky ever since oil giant ExxonMobil announced in 2015 that it had found oil in Guyana. Venezuela has staunchly been against oil exploration in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, where multiple oil deposits were found by ExxonMobil.In fact, Venezuela’s National Assembly had approved an agreement to reject the oil exploration activities in March 2017. Venezuela has claimed, in 1968, the entire territorial sea of Guyana by means of the Leoni Decree, despite the 1899 award.In 2015, the Government of Guyana requested then UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to take steps toward resolving the controversy. In 2016, as a consequence of a stalemate on the matter, the outgoing Ban Ki-moon agreed with his successor, António Guterres, to continue to use the Good Offices Process until the end of 2017 as a means of arriving at a settlement.It is with that intention that Guterres appointed Nylander as an envoy to resolve the border controversy. According to the mandate of the Personal Representative, “If, by the end of 2017, the Secretary General concludes that no significant progress has been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.”That process expired and Guterres subsequently ruled that the matter will engage the attention of the ICJ, where a panel of distinguished judges will hear Guyana’s case in The Hague, Netherlands based court.Guyana’s legal team is being led by former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal. The team is a holdover from the Foley Hoag law firm delegation that successfully petitioned the UN in Guyana’s maritime controversy with Suriname. Other members of the team are Paul Reichler and Payam Akvan.