Features — 24 March 2016 — by Adele Ramos
CARICOM expresses “grave concern” over Guat aggression against Belize military at Sarstoon

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Fri. Mar. 18, 2016–Last week, the Government of Belize issued a statement saying that tensions between Belize’s and Guatemala’s military at the Sarstoon are at an all-time high, after reports of hostile behavior by the Guatemalans near the Forward Operating Base which Belize is constructing on the northern bank of the Sarstoon River. Today, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) issued a statement expressing “grave concern” over the incident.

“Although the incident ended peacefully following contact at the highest level between military and political leaders on both sides, CARICOM notes with grave concern the tension caused as a result of the incident,” its statement said.

“The Caribbean Community restates the importance it places on respect for international law and the sanctity of treaties and deeply regrets any actions of the [Guatemalan Armed Forces – GAF] which violate the sovereignty of Belize and attempt to change the status quo prior to the submission of the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the Special Agreement ratified by both parties,” the statement added.

Three prior agreements to put in place “confidence-building measures” between Belize and Guatemala have only been developed for Belize’s western border with Guatemala and not for the Sarstoon, where it now appears the border dispute is most pronounced. In a statement issued today, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) called on Guatemala “to agree to Confidence Building Measures, in conjunction with the Organization of American States, to ensure peace and stability along the southern border of Belize with the Republic of Guatemala.”

Foreign Affairs officials of Belize and Guatemala met in Washington last week, and Belize proposed CBMs for the Sarstoon; however, the Guatemalans indicated that they did not have the authority to talk about such an agreement.

The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry had indicated after the March 12 encounter between the Belizean and Guatemalan military that it would continue to assert sovereignty over the Sarstoon River, in the absence of an ICJ ruling on the matter.

Following the recent inter-sessional meeting held in Placencia in Belize, CARICOM Heads of Government called for an early referendum in both countries, to decide on whether the matter would be adjudicated at the ICJ for a final ruling.

They also reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and preservation of Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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