Today Commander of the Belize Defence Force (BDF), Brigadier General David Jones, issued a report on the ongoing efforts to ease tensions between his forces and those of Guatemala in the Sarstoon River. Speaking in Belize City, General Jones said he has established camaraderie with his counterpart and they will be meeting soon to establish a protocol, not only for military officers but also for civilians travelling in the river. General Jones said that both forces and countries are committed to peace:
Brigadier General David Jones:
“I have ready accessed counterpart in Guatemala. I had a meeting with him in Texas just prior to the incident that occurred, and he assured me during the meeting that he is willing to work with me to ensure that there is peace in the area of the Sarstoon and along the along the Western border with Belize and to do whatever is possible to de-escalate any tension that is there. And we’ve also both agreed that there is a need of protocol to be established. So that the military is aware of what is expected to happen in there and to the point where even if civilians either Guatemalan or Belizeans civilians go into the Sarstoon, how they’re suppose to be treated and what’s the other protocol that they should follow if they go into the area. He’s committed to peace, I’m committed to peace. Since that incident I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to him, but I expect to see him again within another week and a half or so because we will attend Central American conference. So all the central American leaders, all the general from the different militaries should be there. Participating nations will include Canada, the U.K., Mexico as well. So we’re going to discuss security issues and the threats that affects the region. So if there’s anything that occurs between now and then, I could continue the discussion with him. If nothing occurs between now and then, we can continue work towards the protocol because expect to have a next meeting with him in the next week and a half or so”.
The lack of confidence building measures and even protocol for situations in the Sarstoon, according to the commander, is the primary reason why Guatemala acts more aggressively in the South than it does in the West:
Brigadier General David Jones:
“Well simple reason for that. We have a protocol with Guatemala. We have a confidence building measures that covers the Western boarder. That was not extended to the Sarstoon. There’s absolutely no protocol in the Sarstoon. Their exerting, they believe that they should exert sovereignty over the entire river. We’re of a different view. We believe that the international boundaries run to the centre of the river or the deepest navigable channel. So that is something political that needs to be worked out. The military works from the direction from their political leaders. They have been directed to exercise sovereignty in the entire river, we’ve been directed to exercise sovereignty half of the river. So there’s potential for conflict there. So that needs to be worked out politically. After they established a protocol in the Sarstoon we shouldn’t have much problem and we should work similar as we’re working with them now along the Western border.”