Sovereignty over the territory of Essequibo has been the subject of dispute for almost two centuries and has recently led to increased tension between Guyana, which has administered it as its own since 1966, and Venezuela, which claims it.
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The Venezuelan presidents, Nicolás Maduro, and Guyanese presidents, Irfaan Ali, meet this Thursday in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to discuss this controversy, which was exacerbated after the unilateral referendum on December 3 in which Caracas approved annexing the territory.
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The meeting between presidents is promoted by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which have expressed concern about the increasingly harsh exchanges of statements between both leaders over Essequibo, an area of 160,000 square kilometers rich in oil and natural resources that Georgetown administers and Caracas claims.
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The controversy escalated after Venezuela approved on December 3 in a unilateral referendum to annex the disputed area, under Georgetown control, and the Maduro Government ordered the settlement of a military division near the disputed area, without incursions for the moment, among other measures.
The presidential meeting, which seeks to curb tension and avoid individual actions, was proposed by several countries in the region, especially by the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who sent to this meeting, as personal envoy, Celso Amorim, who was his Foreign Minister.
Follow all the details of the day here.
What is known about the meetings with Caricom?
Both meetings took place behind closed doors, with a short period of time for the press to capture a few seconds of the meeting, after which the conversations began, the details of which are unknown, for now.
Minutes earlier, both Ali and Maduro were received at the Argyle International Airport by the Prime Minister of San Vicente, Ralph Gonsalves, who has highlighted his role as facilitator without mediating between the parties.
Maduro and Ali met, separately, with Caricom leaders before the meeting
Ali, accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Hugh Todd, among other Guyanese officials, took the first turn in these previous conversations with representatives of the Caribbean countries, including the former Foreign Minister of Belize Lisa Shoman, General Counsel of Caricom.
Then, Maduro went to the same room, accompanied by the executive vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yván Gil, among other companions, such as his wife, deputy Cilia Flores.
Irfaan Ali is already in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The state channel Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) assures that Irfaan Ali is already in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where they went Caribbean leaders and a representative of the United Nations (UN) to support these talksthe first to occur since Venezuela unilaterally approved annexing the disputed area, under the control of Georgetown.
Maduro and Ali arrive in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and Guyana, Irfaan Ali, arrived in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines this Thursday to hold a meeting amid growing tensions due to the old territorial dispute between both countries.
“I come to look for effective solutions through the only way there is, the way of dialogue and negotiation”Maduro told the press after being received by the prime minister of the country hosting the meeting, Ralph Gonsalves.