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CARICOM’s 37th Regular Meeting Ends in Guyana with Expressed Support for Belize’s Sovereignty

The 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) concluded yesterday in Georgetown, Guyana following two days of meetings among member countries.  This regular session signalled the start of a new Chairman in the name of Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister for Dominica who took over from Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow.  Discussions included several areas including regional security where the Heads of Government agreed on ways to deepen and strengthen cooperation as well as the revision of the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy.  They also agreed that urgent steps should be taken for the completion of a number of critical regional security agreements with a priority on the CARICOM Arrest Warrant treaty which would address cross-border crimes; the deadline for completion was agreed to be year’s end. In the area of the single market and economy, a comprehensive review will be considered at the next Intersessional meeting slated for February 2017.  It was agreed that the public education campaign in all member states on the CSME must be amplified, highlighting the benefits and provisions.  When it comes to travel from one member state to the next it was noted that the overwhelming majority of citizens was traveling throughout the community without hindrances.  The Heads of Government, however, pressed on having the member states give full effect to the free movement regimes as was ruled by the Caribbean Court of Justice.  To aid this process the Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to convene a meeting of Chief Immigration Officers, CARICOM Ambassadors, and other relevant officials by 30 September 2016, in order to address the challenges being experienced by Community nationals travelling throughout the Region.  The de-risking movement was also high on the agenda as the heads reviewed the latest developments with respect to efforts to resolve the issue which is severely affecting member states in trade, economic welfare and the transfer of remittances.  To add to the efforts in mitigating the challenges, the Heads of Government agreed to host a Global Stakeholder Conference on the Impact of the Withdrawal of Correspondent Banking on the Region which would include banks and regulators from the region, the United States of America, Canada and Europe, international development partners and representatives from civil society.  The BREXIT matter was also tabled in the discussions as the matter was described as a watershed event in current world affairs whose geopolitical and geo-economic repercussions would be far-reaching and long-lasting.  The heads agreed that the community should continue to monitor the developments as the exit process unfolds.  The Belize/Guatemala border issue as well as the Guyana/Venezuela matter were also on the agenda.  As it relates to the Belize/Guatemala matter, a communique was published, stating, quote, “Heads of Government expressed their full support for the Government of Belize as it enters the process of dialogue and welcomed the decisions of the Government of Belize and Guatemala to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of cooperation for the Sarstoon River, which marks Belize’s southern boundary.  They urged them to complete this at the earliest opportunity.  Heads of Government expressed support the continuous and critical role of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in the process aimed at resolving the dispute arising from Guatemala’s claims and further calls on the international community to continue supporting the OAS office in the Adjacency Zone.  The Conference of Heads of Government also supports the efforts of Belize and Guatemala to move deliberately to fully implement the special agreement of 2008 between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claims to the International Court of Justice.  The Heads of Government emphasised their unflinching support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.”  End of quote.  Several other areas were discussed including health as well as relations between CARICOM and Cuba.  A special visit of Chile’s President, Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet was entertained by the community, a symbol of a renewal of the longstanding political cooperation relations.  Chile shares common interests and concerns with the Caribbean Community and it was the view of the heads that the strengthening of relations would be of mutual interest.  It was agreed that the technical cooperation and political engagement would be heightened in areas of climate change, sustainable development and trade cooperation.  The meetings concluded yesterday.  Belize’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington remains abroad for the funeral service of the former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning.