Guatemalan Foreign Affairs minister visits Adjacency Zone

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, along with his counterpart, Her Excellency Sandra Joval Polanco, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guatemala, paid a joint official visit to the Office of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Adjacency Zone at the western border today, February 27,. The Foreign Ministers and their respective delegations were joined by Mr. Washington Abdala, Special Representative for the Secretary General of the OAS for Belize and Guatemala. The visit included a bilateral meeting, a presentation about development projects implemented in the communities along the border, and other presentations on other OAS-led border programs. After the meeting, the two foreign ministers spoke to the media. Jovel explained what was discussed in the meeting today.

Sandra Jovel, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala: 

We talked about the OAS office here in the adjacency area, how to strengthen the office, what has worked previously on this theme of peace culture, how it has worked and how it benefits both countries. A little bit to strengthen the bi-lateral relationship that is necessary for both countries to work on the 13 agreements that we have signed between both countries and to be able to empower the best we can for Guatemala and Belize. 

The media also asked the Guatemalan Minister about tensions on the Sarstoon. As has been reported, just this past weekend, the Belize Territorial Volunteers were once again accosted the Guatemala military. The Guatemalans blocked the Belizean vessel and told the BTV that they are not allowed to go up the river and instructed the group to turn around because they were not on Belizean waters but on disputed waters over which they , the Guatemalans, have control. The media asked the Foreign Minister what her country was doing to ensure peace on the Sarstoon. 

Sandra Jovel, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala:

I believe that the meetings that have been held recently between Guatemala and Belize have been precisely for that, to try and strengthen relations, strengthening peace and the culture of peace that we see reflected here today. I believe that more examples of goodwill that both countries have can be reflected, and I think that what we are seeing today is precisely that; what we want to do, and what we want for our countries.

Jovel was also asked if Guatemala could be trusted to respect the decision of the ICJ if it ruled in favor of Belize and not Guatemala. Here is her response.

Sandra Jovel, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala:

We know that on April 15th will be the referendum in Guatemala. Guatemala is informing the entire population to let them know about the territorial and maritime dispute that we have with Belize and that it is the International court of Justice who decides what to do, and what will be the procedure. We are willing to take what the court decides and that is what we are going for. That is why we want the referendum to be held on April 15th to be able to take that step of peace, that step of development for our countries that later will result in benefits for both of us.

Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, said that at this point in time, there are good relations between Guatemala and Belize.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs:

I don’t think that there’s been a better time in terms of the relationship between us at all levels, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs level we’re very cordial, we’re very close. As a matter of fact the Foreign Minister is very proactive and very much interested in enhancing the relationship between us apart from getting the Guatemalan issues solved, they want to enhance the relationship and make it better, stronger, and deeper. Also too at the children’s level you saw with the relationship from the Culture of Peace program how kids are working together so very very well. At the people to people level, I don’t think that there has been a better time, Guatemalans are coming across and working with us, Belizeans are going across and working with Guatemalans. WE go as students, we go for medical attention, we go for commercial purposes, we have Guatemalan investors coming into Belize. SO this is a very good period, a juncture in our life. Peace, no problem. I don’t think we can ask for more. The ICJ is an imperative for all right thinking persons, both in Belize and Guatemala because we have a dispute, a dispute which none of us caused but which we inherited, and the only place you can resolve it peacefully and without any harm being done to anybody, both territory or person is by going to the ICJ.

At today’s meeting, the Ministers also updated each other on preparations for their respective referenda. They also both expressed support for the strengthening of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.

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