Belize and Guatemala foreign ministers meet

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BELMOPAN, Belize, Apr 9, CMC – Belize and Guatemala foreign ministers met late Friday to discuss the latest incident in the Sarstoon area.

Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington who met his Guatemalan counterpart Carlos Raul Morales at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters in the adjacency zone, later told reporters that in March a meeting was to discuss the various instances that were troubling the Belizean public in relation to activities in the Sarstoon River.

“And at that time of the discussion with the Guatemalan counterpart we had agreed that we will try to meet as quickly as possible after the Easter vacation to try to further the discussion.

“So this meeting was to do that and at the same time we decided that we will in fact try to deal with other issues which we have on a bilateral basis between the two countries,” he added.

The Guatemalan foreign minister said the meeting is intended to build a “new relation between Guatemala and Belize.

“We are aware that we have a goal and the goals is to have the best relation between both countries. We know we have a differendum and the differendum has to be sent to the ICJ (International Court of Justice) but in the mean time we have to build a very good relation between both countries and we have to avoid any kind of incidents between both countries.”

He acknowledged that “there are many challenges to face, but we have the good will to continue working together and we will have these kinds of meetings”.

He said it was also important for the two countries to improve their bilateral relations particularly as it relates to organised crime.

Erlington said that he would not disclose the outcome of the meeting “largely because we prefer to report … to our principals before we go into any further details on this matter.

“You will be free to perhaps try to organize some kind of interview with the Prime Minister (Dean Barrow) once we have briefed him so that he in fact can properly inform the nation,” Erlington told reporters, adding that he wanted to aplogise for the head of government “because I think earlier in this week he had indicated that this meeting would not have been on today…”.

The foreign minister said that he would be submitting a report to Prime Minister Barrow, no later than Tuesday “and then thereafter I am sure you could feel free to make contact with him”.

Last month, the Belize government called on the OAS to conduct an investigation following a shooting incident in which a senior Belize Defence Force (BDF) member was shot at least four times.

Guatemala and Belize have had a long-running border dispute, with Guatemala claiming the whole or part of Belize since 1940.

Last month, the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) reiterated its support for Belize in its ongoing border dispute with Guatemala following an incident involving the BDF and the Guatemalan Navy near the mouth of the Sarstoon River.

Belize sent a protest note to Guatemala over the incident but the Guatemalans replied disagreeing with Belmopan’s version of the incident.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader John Briceno met with Prime Minister Barrow on Monday to discuss the Sarstoon issue.

“We felt that it was important for us to meet to have a better analysis or understanding of what really is taking place.

“We in the People’s United Party have said that when it comes to the unfounded claim that Guatemala has over Belize, that it is something of national importance and that it is something that all of us supposed to be working together to find a solution that is going to protect and preserve every single square centimetre of our territory, be it water or land,” Briceno said.

“We have always promised that we want to work together; the Prime Minister has assured us that they will continue to share all information with the opposition and for us to have all the necessary information to keep in step with what government is doing,” he added.

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