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The importance of Sarstoon protocols

The Belize/Guatemala territorial differendum is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice and has been delayed by six months after Guatemala was given an extension to submit their claim to the court.

The Belize/Guatemala territorial differendum is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice and has been delayed by six months after Guatemala was given an extension to submit their claim to the court. The matter still has at least three years to go before any definite ruling is handed down and until that happens the Sarstoon area remains vulnerable.  Recently, the Belize Territorial Volunteers were confronted by the Guatemalan Armed Forces refusing the group access to the Sarstoon Island.  The Belize Defence Force stood their ground and the group was then able to continue to the island.  These blockages have happened on countless occasions which had eventually  led to the agreement to have a Sarstoon protocol developed.  That agreement was made in 2016 but to date there is no protocol.  Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington spoke on the general access to the Sarstoon but also went further to say that the territorial volunteers were acting reckless.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The Guatemalans are claiming entitlement to the Sarstoon Island. Based on the description of Belizean territory in the treaty it is clear that the Sarstoon Island belongs to Belize but any territory that is disputed can give rise to problems and to my mind something has got to be wrong with you if in fact a bigger country is claiming a part of your territory and you will insist on going there and putting your live in danger because it can cause a problem. The prudent thing is to not to seek to provoke the Guatemalans because they get upset. If the Guatemalans decided to come and put their flag on the Sarstoon Island we get upset too, our people get upset too and so it can cause an incident and for that reason we try to discourage that from happening. Thankfully the dispute is now at the ICJ and it is only a few years from now before we’ll get a final settlement settling the issue of the Sarstoon Island completely once and for all. Certainly we can wait until that is done before people can take it upon themselves to risk their lives and that of their friends and the rest of the people in the country by going and provoking the Guatemalans or do anything the Guatemalans can interpret as being provocation they are much bigger than us. So I’ve always discouraged that kind of thing.”

While Minister Elrington was unable to say whether or not there were any efforts made toward the protocol he did explain to Love News what the protocol would entail if only there was one in existence.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “An arrangement, a prearranged arrangement whereby in the event of any dispute taking place between Guatemalans and Belizeans we can deal with that dispute in a logical, rational way. And that simple means if you hear there’s a dispute in other words Guatemalans trying to stop Belizeans from going through, Guatemalans and the military try to stop Belizean civilians or Belizean military it would be good if we had a system whereby we could call up the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, call up the General in charge of the military in Guatemala or in charge of the Navy and say to them well let us see how we could resolve this dispute peacefully so that the thing doesn’t escalate and get out of hand that is basically what the protocol is all about. Just a way of getting the matter settled in a peaceful way so that it doesn’t get out of hand and cause any damage to life or limb or the relationship between our two countries.”

While we had the Foreign Minister in interview earlier today we also took the opportunity to ask him about the current relations between himself and his Guatemalan counterpart as well as the recently installed President Alejandro Giammetti.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The Guatemalan president because of the fact that he came to office almost at the time when we had this COVID-19 we haven’t had much of a relationship with him at all. He has not really expressed any interest in relation to Belize other than it seems they would like to continue to see us pursue the case at the ICJ. I know he had caught COVID  and I know that the Prime Minister had sent him a letter of sympathy and he responded very politely and of course expressed the wish that we would continue to live together in harmony as we proceed with this matter at the ICJ. The new Foreign Minister also I have spoken to him at his instance he initiated discussion with me two or three time , one was to inform me that they want to extend the time to deal with the deposit of their memorial at the ICJ but again all the interaction has been cordial and good.”

President Giammattei took office at the start of this year and unlike his predecessor Jimmy Morales, he did not campaign on the promise of claiming Belize as part of Guatemala.