By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- President of Guyana, David Granger, has been invited by Turkey to attend the upcoming Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) heads of government summit, which will be held in Istanbul from April 10-15.
President David Granger (L) with OIC Secretary General, Iyad Ameen Madani
The Secretary General of the OIC, Dr Iyad Madani, urged Granger when the two met in Jeddah in November to participate in the OIC Istanbul Summit, since no Guyanese head of state had ever attended an OIC summit.
Former foreign ministers of Guyana, Clement Rohee and Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, attended two OIC summits as heads of delegation. Guyana’s former ambassador to Kuwait, Odeen Ishmael, also participated in one summit as head of delegation. Many foreign ministers meetings have not seen attendance from Guyana's foreign ministers.
Guyana, a small state, is keen to enhance multilateral diplomacy as a means to defend its territorial integrity, amidst renewed claims to its territory by Venezuela after a major oil discovery offshore Guyana. With a small army and a lack of conventional weapons compared to Venezuela, the new government of Guyana is looking to participate more actively in multilateral forums such as the OIC. This was one of Granger’s promises to enhance Guyana’s participation in the OIC when he visited Saudi Arabia last year.
Guyana is working on some initiatives to strengthen economic relations with the OIC, according to Granger. One such goal is to join the Islamic Development Bank by mid-year according to the finance minister of Guyana, Winston Jordan.
It will be an opportunity for Granger to use this multilateral forum to reach out to 56 very diverse countries that span a wide geographical area, especially given that Guyana does not have diplomatic ties with 18 member-states of the OIC: 14 in Africa and four in Asia.
Many of Guyana’s Commonwealth allies are members of the OIC -- Brunei, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. Many French-speaking West African and sub-Saharan countries that Guyana does not have diplomatic relations with are members of the Islamic bloc. Indonesia, the world most populous Muslim country; economic giants of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Arab region, all belong to the OIC.
It is there a useful forum for a small state like Guyana to raise its profile on the international stage.
Guyana is expected to name a new ambassador to Kuwait, and officially appoint an envoy to the OIC soon. Many argue that this will be cost efficient for Guyana to have a diplomatic presence in the Middle East who can attend OIC meetings, which are mostly held in the East.
Guyana has been a member of the OIC since 1998.