Belize and Guatemala to Formulate Cooperation Mechanism for the Sarstoon

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Updated: May 24, 2016

Bilateral talks between Belize and Guatemala began yesterday in Istanbul, Turkey with delegations from Belize, Guatemala and the Organization of American States.For Belize’s part, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington led the delegation while Carlos Raul Morales represented Guatemala and Magdalena Talamas represented the Secretary General of theOrganization of American States.  The meetings coincide with the World Humanitarian Summit being held by the United Nations Secretary General in that transcontinental nation.  The Government of Belize sent out a press release earlier today stating that both countries have once again expressed their desire for peaceful talks and discussions over the ongoing differendum.  The release went on to state, quote, “The Ministers recognized the need to avoid incidents between the two countries that affect the process of confidence building as agreed in 2000, 2003 and 2005. In this context they affirmed the need to work more in the development of building confidence, especially between the Armed Forces of both countries, including the possibility of having joint training for the troops responsible for patrolling the Adjacency Zone. Both Ministers recognized the urgent need for and committed to working on the design and development of a mechanism for cooperation in the Sarstoon River, which should include the participation of relevant institutions of both Parties and be coordinated by both Foreign Ministries with the participation of the Organization of American States.  Recognizing the importance of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone and of the urgent and critical need for funding to maintain this Office, they undertook to jointly pursue efforts to source such funding.”  End of quote.  Within minutes of receiving this release from the Government’s Press Office, another correspondence came in, announcing the revocation of the Statutory Instrument that bans Belizeans from entering the Sarstoon River.  That 2-paragraph release says that the Cabinet has requested that the Governor General His Excellency Sir Colville Young sign a Statutory Instrument revoking, with immediate effect, the Sarstoon Prohibition SI.  The request comes on the heels of the meetings in Istanbul where an agreement was reached regarding the Sarstoon.  That agreement, according to the release, is a commitment from both sides to begin working on a formal cooperation mechanism that will respect Belize’s and Guatemala’s respective use and navigation of the Sarstoon. While the formal mechanism is being worked on, the two sides have informally accepted a situation in which there will be untrammeled traffic for Belize’s military and civilians along the Sarstoon.The meetings in Istanbul were held at the Met and Hilton Bomonti Hotel.  Belize’s delegation headed by Minister Elrington included Ambassador Alexis Rosado and the representative for the Opposition Party, Senator Eamon Courtenay.