Sedi says lingering Guat claim an impediment to regional integration
OAS border office conducted more than 100 acts of verification of incidents or difficulties
A road map signed by Belize and Guatemala at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Friday, January 24, 2014, sets out a 12-month program of activities, to culminate with subsequent review to determine the possibility of holding simultaneous referenda in 2015, so that the electorates of both countries could vote on whether the parties should submit the territorial differendum to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
According to the OAS, the main objective of the roadmap signed Friday is “the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between the two countries during 2014 in order to make concrete the holding of popular consultations to enable the consideration of the territorial dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”
The vote which was slated for last October was aborted after Guatemala unilaterally pulled out of the process, claiming that Belize’s referendum law, which requires that 60% of the electorate participate to make the vote valid, does not create a level playing field to secure a “yes” vote.
The latest agreement does not contemplate that voting would happen in 2014, but it considers the possibility that the ICJ vote may be held in 2015.
Signing the 4-page agreement for Belize on Friday was Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, who commented at the signing that, “…whereas we intend to have a judicial resolution of the claim, a judicial resolution would really be empty if, in fact, we did not have an excellent relationship between our two countries, one that is characterized by trust, confidence and interaction between our two peoples…”
Elrington went on to say that, “For all of us here in this room, it is a question of enlightened self-interest for us to see a successful resolution of the Belize-Guatemala claim. It is going to be a deterrent for the complete integration of the region if, in fact, we have these claims hanging over – it prevents the complete integration which we all aspire to and which we all know is going to enhance the development of our peoples and our region.”
Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Fernando Carrera said the juridical solution “must be accompanied by a political solution based on dialogue, which is what must prevail in this process.”
“The day we get a ruling from the ICJ our people must perceive it as the culmination of a process rather than the beginning of a relationship,” Carrera said.
With the roadmap agreed, he said, “we are taking the first steps so that when the Court issues a ruling, we are all willing to accept and follow up on it.”
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said the roadmap and plan of action outline the activities, programs and projects to be implemented to promote the Confidence Building Measures between the two countries, and added that the agreement “brings us closer to the possibility of a final resolution of this dispute.”
An OAS statement reporting on the signing of the roadmap indicates that “in the last year more than 100 acts of verification of incidents or difficulties that arose in the area were conducted,” by the OAS office on the Belize-Guatemala border. It also said that they had implemented the resettlement of the last Guatemalan families who were living illegally inside Belize, very near to the Belize-Guatemala border.