Headline — 03 March 2018 — by Micah Goodin
Belizean and Guatemalan diplomats meet in the Adjacency Zone

Elrington told the press that the relationship between Belize and Guatemala has never been better

BENQUE VIEJO DEL CARMEN, Cayo District, Tues. Feb. 27, 2018– A high-profile meeting between Belize’s and Guatemala’s foreign affairs ministers was held today at the Organization of American States (OAS) office situated inside the Adjacency Zone. Present were Guatemala’s Foreign Minister, Sandra Jovel Polanco; Belize’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, and the new Special Representative of the OAS Secretary General, Manuel Washington Abdala.

After two hours of private discussions, all the diplomats emerged for a Culture of Peace Programme that featured presentations from Guatemalan and Belizean students.

During that event, the students presented portraits of both foreign ministers, and portraits of Belize’s prime minister, Dean Barrow, and Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales.

Thereafter, Polanco and Elrington made themselves available to the press.

Polanco commented on the discussions held privately today.

“We discussed the office of the OAS here, in the Adjacency Zone, how to strengthen the office, what has worked, precisely, the culture of peace, how it has functioned and benefitted both countries. A bit as well, strengthening bilateral relationships, which for both countries is necessary. Work on the 13 Agreements which have been signed by both countries, and strengthen a few of the best we can for Belize and Guatemala. That is what we discussed,” she said.

She was then quizzed on the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory. When asked what Guatemala was doing to maintain peace with Belize, she explained, “I think the meetings that have been recently held between Belize and Guatemala have, at the end, precisely that—to try to strengthen the relationship, strengthen peace and the culture of peace as we are seeing being reflected here today.”

She added, “I think the show of goodwill by both countries allows us to reflect more on that, and I think what we are seeing today is exactly that.”

Our newspaper had previously reported that Guatemalans would head to the polls on April 15 for a referendum to determine if it should have its claim to Belize’s territory settled at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

When asked if her country would honor the ICJ’s ruling if it was unfavorable, she replied, “We are willing to do what the court decides. That is where we are going. That is why we want to have the referendum on April 15 and be able to take a step closer to peace, a step of development for both countries that later will result in benefits for both.”

In terms of the prevailing sentiments of Guatemalans who will be polled on their position, Polanco said, “I think our mission as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government is precisely to inform, inform what is correct, inform so that the population at that time can vote and decide the future of both countries.”

Thereafter, Minister Elrington commented on today’s event. He said, “This is the first time that this particular foreign minister from Guatemala is here, but her predecessor was here on a number of occasions along with us, and I don’t think we have had a better reception than the one she has received.”

According to him, today was a huge success. “This was a very good program, very wonderfully choreographed, as you saw the kids were so spontaneous and so absolutely talented and excited,” he said. “I was particularly impressed by the gusto with which they sang the songs about peace and wanting to live together in peace and friendship and brotherhood. That means volumes to us. The younger people obviously have the right ideas and we must nourish that,” Elrington further noted.

Elrington told the press that the relationship between Belize and Guatemala has never been better.

“I don’t think there’s been a better time in terms of the relationship between us at all levels. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs level, we’re very cordial, we’re very close. As a matter of fact, the Foreign Minister is very proactive and very much interested in enhancing the relationship between us, apart from getting the Guatemala issue solved. They want to enhance the relationship and make it better, stronger, deeper,” he said.

He added, “Also too, at the children’s level, you saw the relationship from the Culture of Peace Programme, how kids are working together so very, very well. At the people to people level, I don’t think there has been a better time. Guatemalans come across and work with us; Belizeans are going across and working with Guatemalans. We go as students, we go for medical attention, we go for commercial purposes. We have Guatemalan investors coming into Belize. So this is a very, very good period, a juncture in our lives.”

“Peace, no problem, I don’t think we can ask for more,” said Elrington, who expressed immense support for having the Belize-Guatemala border dispute settled at the ICJ.

After this very brief interview, the diplomats departed for lunch at the La Cabana Restaurant in Melchor de Mencos, Petén.

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