With the Forward Operating Base now completed at the Sarstoon, it is interesting to see how the relations between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and Belize’s military will be. Minister John Saldivar spoke on some of the challenges they face with the GAF as is and how the absence of confidence building measures could lead to heightened tension in the Sarstoon area.
“There have been a number of incidents along the Sarstoon in which Guatemalan armed forces illegally entered Belizean waters and acted in aggressive and hostile manner towards our people. These actions are contrary to international law and the spirit of good neighborliness and these were strongly protested. Government of Belize remains concerned that in the absence of confidence building measures specific to the Sarstoon area the positions held by both our countries will continue to give rise to tension and conflict in the area of the Sarstoon. The mechanism for definitely resolving such differences peacefully are already agreed upon and Belize remains committed to the special agreement of 2008 which aims to resolve any and all differences arising from Guatemala’s claim at the ICJ pending a final outcome of this dispute both our government have a duty to do everything within our power to ensure the maintenance of peace and stability and to avoid conflict on the ground.”
Meanwhile Commander David Jones says that Belize will continue to operate in peaceful manner despite the complex nature of the situation.
“The entrance of this river marks the entrance of the international boundary that we share with our neighbor Guatemala and it is fitting that we work with them here as we are neighbors and we share the same concerns and challenges. Even though our base is directly facing our Guatemalan counterpart is not here to act as an opposing force to them. It is covering the same principle of having great field of view, to have eyes on what is entering and exiting the river. We will endeavor to work with them on a principle of mutual respect and cooperation as we share an international boundary. Despite our country’s political differences we will continue to work as professionals despite the seemingly complex nature we have to work under that can result to tensions. We will continue to extend the hand of friendship, working with the Guatemalan military and civilians in this area while protecting the interest of our countries and citizens while operating here.”
Commander Jones says that this Forward Operating Base is a part of the objectives of the BDF to address security challenges that Belize faces.