Upon return from the World Humanitarian Summit held by the United Nations in Istanbul in May of this year, the Government of Belize announced to the nation that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Belize and Guatemala, Hon. Wilfred Elrington and Mr. Carlos Raúl Morales, in the presence of officials from the OAS, had discussed several issues under their bilateral agenda. But instead of distributing the joint communique issued by the two Governments in Istanbul, the Belize Government chose instead to issue two press releases describing the meeting . In one press release, Government touted the commitment between Belize and Guatemala to peace and good faith, the agreement to start work on a formal cooperation mechanism, and the need to avoid incidents between the two countries. In the second press release , GOB stated that Guatemala had, in good faith, freed up passage on the Sarstoon until a mechanism for the use of the river could be worked out. The second press release from GOB stated that the controversial SI which blocked Belizeans from travelling into the Sarstoon had been lifted before the one month period due to those new realities. However, when the media went to the Sarstoon to test the new interim agreement hashed out in Istanbul, they found quite the opposite situation on the Sarstoon River. Guatemalan military met the Belize Media with the words QUOTE “you are in national (Guatemalan) waters and so you cannot continue down the river”. The Belize Government’s first response was that the message may not have reached the Military on the Sarstoon, so give it time. Then, in an interview with the media last Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington hinted that the Guatemalan Foreign Minister did not see the agreement in the same light. Here again is that clip.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Certanly the last mechanism in relation to the Sarstoon was on the understanding that while we are working out the mechanism, our people would be able to go and come without hindrance, that is our understanding, that is the context in which we were negotiating. I think the foreign minister of Guatemala suggested that he was not understand it in that light, but you know anybody who has any knowledge of negotiation and documentation knows that a document can be interpreted differently by different people
Today, Krem’s Morning Show released a leaked Guatemalan diplomatic note which was purportedly sent to Hon. Elrington on the day after the Belize Government issued the two press releases we told you about earlier. In that letter written by the Guatemalan Embassy in Belize, it told the Belize Government that, contrary to its release to Belizeans, there was no agreement in Istanbul to grant Belizeans untrammeled access to the Sarstoon River. The letter in its 4th point states
“…it was agreed in Istanbul to negotiate a cooperation mechanism for the Sarstoon river even though Guatemala reiterates that the river is an integral part of its territory“.
The letter then proceeds to chide the Belizean Government that it was agreed that the agreed joint statement was to be the one published by both countries, yet Belize published information contrary to that agreement.
” As soon as the Guatemalan Foreign Minister was informed of the Belize statement dated May 24th, he immediately expressed concern to Foreign Minister Elrington and Ambassador Rosado because such statement did not reflect the content of the conversation”.
Guatemala is accusing Belize then, that Belize did not publish the agreed upon joint communique, a standard Diplomatic procedure after high level meetings, and that furthermore, the statements published regarding free access to the Sarstoon do not reflect any agreement made in Istanbul.