Border controversySome two months after the United Nations Secretary General handed over the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final settlement, formal proceedings were filed on Thursday asking the World Court to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award.Guyana’s application was submitted by Second Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge to ICJ Registrar Philippe Couvreur, in The Hague, Netherlands, a statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge with ICJ Registrar Philippe Couvreur at the World Court in The Hague, Netherlands on ThursdayThis application follows a decision by UN Secretary General António Guterres earlier this year in choosing the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy that arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela was null and void.According to Guyana’s application to the World Court, for more than 60 years Venezuela had consistently recognised and respected the validity of the binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 Map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the Award.“Venezuela had only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and had threatened not to recognise the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory,” Guyana submitted in its application to the World Court.The court document further noted that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to justify its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, the neighbouring country has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development, and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.In filing the application, Minister Greenidge, who will serve as Guyana’s agent in the proceedings before the ICJ, said “…Guyana has respected the Secretary General’s decision and placed its faith in the International Court of Justice to resolve the controversy in accordance with its Statue and jurisprudence, based on the fundamental principles of international law, including the sanctity of treaties, the maintenance of settled boundaries and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.”The UN Secretary General’s authority to choose the ICJ as the means for resolving the controversy is rooted in the Geneva Agreement of 1966, negotiated just before Guyana attained independence. On January 30, 2018, Secretary General Guterres concluded that the Good Offices Process, which the parties had engaged in for almost 30 years, had failed to achieve a solution to the controversy and chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement, for which Guyana has long been advocating.Government has confirmed that the legal team that was established to defend Guyana’s territory against its western neighbour is the same as the panel that fought and won the judicial proceedings against Suriname over a decade ago.That team, which was headed by Paul Reichler, a partner in the Washington office of law firm Foley Hoag LLP, was successful. The matter was settled by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in 2007.Meanwhile, Government’s top legal adviser in this current case, Sir Shridath Ramphal, has assured that the country’s sovereignty is in good hands. The former Commonwealth Secretary General said last week that Guyana could not expect better and it was for the country and its Government to establish to the world what has always been the case, which is sticking by the agreement that was signed.On that note, he said the case was in good hands and that the same team that won judicial proceedings against Suriname has been retained to fight this case. “We got to work again to finish the job,” he had stated.United States oil giant ExxonMobil had announced back in May 2015 that it had found oil offshore Guyana. Venezuela has staunchly been against oil exploration in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, where multiple oil deposits were found by ExxonMobil, and has since renewed claims to the Essequibo region.In the meantime, ExxonMobil is continuing its successful exploration, making its seventh discovery of “high quality” commercial oil offshore Guyana last month. According to the company, this will help bring Guyana’s production to more than 500,000 barrels per day when oil production commences in two years’ time.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had told a gathering of members from the local legal fraternity earlier this month that Government’s fast tracking of oil production was “inextricably linked” with the 55-year-old border controversy with neighbouring Venezuela.He said that Guyana has been strategically pushing for first oil in 2020 in light of the claims by its western neighbour over waters offshore Guyana that are being explored by the US oil giant.