Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Assad Shoman Discusses the Guatemala-Belize Referendum Issue with UB Students

vlcsnap-2013-09-18-10h47m43s62Belize will be recognizing its 32nd year of Independence in the coming days and indisputably the country has reached significant milestones since attaining sovereignty from Great Britain in 1981. But one matter still lingering over our heads is a territorial claim lodged by neighboring Guatemala. Efforts have been made throughout the years to amicably resolve the conflict, the latest being a simultaneous referendum that would have decided whether the matter would be heard by the International Court of Justice. That joint venture was scheduled for next month, but Guatemala opted out of that agreement, stating that there were certain conditions that would hinder a positive result. But the dialogue of just how and when this long standing dispute will be put to rest continues. One of the key players in leading this discussion has been former Ambassador and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Assad Shoman. He has been a pioneer and negotiator on behalf of Belize. On Tuesday, Mr. Shoman participated in an open discussion with students of the University of Belize where they tackled the fundamentals of the issue. Following the event, we caught up with Mr. Shoman.

Assad Shoman – Former Minister:

vlcsnap-2013-09-18-10h48m56s48The students here were mostly interested in how possible will there be a solution to this street, what do we need to do in order to arrive at a solution, and I explained as best I could on what the current situation is and the refuse of the Guatemalan government to go to the Referendum on the date agreed and in my view on any date at all.   We also talked and the thing about the that cut the students involved and worked up is the idea that we, the Belizeans ourselves…we didn’t put it in these words but in effect, but why?   Because we are not united;  We need to unite as one people and be willing to fight to preserve what we gained.

Now Assad Shoman knows the ins and outs of this territorial claim, so how in his opinion can it best be resolved and why? He told us.

Assad Shoman – Former Minister:

We are convinced from looking at the history of the negotiations since Independence, from looking at the statements from made by Guatemalan Governments, and looking at the structures that exist in Guatemala, that it impossible to have a negotiated settlement unless either we are willing to give up territory, which we’re not, or the Guatemalans are wiling not to have territory, which they’re not, and therefore it’s impossible to negotiate a solution.  We’ve looked at other ways of solving the issue, and the only way it can be done is through the International Court of Justice.  The only way it can be done in a way that Guatemala, once the judgment is given, will have to respect that judgment, and we’ll have to implement that judgment. [Then] we’d have at last a final, a secure, and recognized boarder between the two countries.        

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