BELIZE CITY, Tues. Mar. 22, 2016–Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a formal response to a recent statement from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) after the Saturday, March 12, 2016, incident in which Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF), according to the Government of Belize account, entered Belizean territorial waters and “behaved in an extremely hostile and threatening manner,” while insisting that Belizean soldiers should not be at the Sarstoon.
CARICOM issued a strong statement on Friday, March 18, calling out GAF for entering “Belizean internal waters” and acting in an intimidating manner towards members of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) who were at Belize’s Forward Operating Base, which is under construction on Belize’s mainland at the mouth of the Sarstoon River.
CARICOM said that while the GAF claimed that the River belonged to them, the mid-channel of the River was the settled and agreed border between the Republic of Guatemala and the United Kingdom long before Belize’s independence in 1981.
On Monday, March 21, Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, also dated March 18, in which it made three assertions: (1) it claims that “the Government of Guatemala reaffirms that the Sarstoon River is Guatemalan territory;” (2) with respect to the March 12th incident, it said that the Government of Guatemala reiterates its position, that Belizean soldiers were not provoked but were asked to follow the security protocols customarily used for the Sarstoon; and (3) in relation to the assertion by CARICOM, with respect to what it identifies as Belize’s southern border with Guatemala, the Guatemala Government reiterates that it had denounced the 1859 boundary treaty between Britain and Guatemala with respect to “British Honduras” (the former name of Belize), due to what it said was a breach of clause 7 of the treaty by Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Consequently, it said, that treaty’s expiration was announced by Guatemala’s Congress, via decree No. 224, on April 9, 1946.
Guatemala’s statement closed by saying that consequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms once more that Guatemala will continue to exercise sovereignty over the Sarstoon River, as it is now doing, until the International Court of Justice definitively resolves the territorial, insular and maritime differendum between the countries.