A press conference was called once again today to update the nation on meetings between Belize and Guatemala. Prime Minister Barrow began by reading a prepared statement. He called the meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, and Guatemala’s Foreign Minister in reference to the recent incidents in the Belize-Guatemala Adjacency Zone and the Sarstoon River, a breakthrough and also said that the SI played a role, in his opinion, to help move things in the right direction.
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: We greatly appreciate the O.A.S. Secretary-General’s statement last night, following his meeting with Belize and Guatemala, which makes clear that both nations are to “adopt a cooperation mechanism as soon as possible to normalize the situation in the Sarstoon River”. In other words, the two countries are to agree an operational protocol regarding the Sarstoon, and the statement commends their willingness to do this. As the S.G. put it, he “welcomed the readiness of both parties to advance in the negotiations of the cooperation mechanism” for the Sarstoon.G.O.B. regards the results of the Washington meeting as something of a breakthrough. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome to the Sarstoon negotiations that have now been mandated between Belize and Guatemala. And we cannot rest content until those negotiations have been finally concluded and there is a formal agreement in writing. But there is no doubt that progress has been made. And that progress vindicates, among other things, the recent actions of our Government in placing a temporary ban on civilians going to the Sarstoon. We had made clear last Friday and Monday that we acted so as to forestall any possibility of damage to property or injury to persons occurring as a result of civilian entry into the cauldron of the Sarstoon. But we also acted as to give our diplomacy a chance to work, especially in light of these Washington meetings which we had been seaking. The fact that the meetings took place successfully on Tuesday and Wednesday is vindication of our strategy. We repeat though that the situation will remain tricky until we reach final agreement. There was a positive spirit as I understand it that informed the Washington meetings and that also animated informal exchanges with the Guatemalans and this makes us optimistic.
Prime Minister Barrow says that a PUP trip to the Sarstoon could imperil negotiations with Guatemala. He spent time to belabor this point.
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: In the circumstances, we are especially concerned over any development that could undo the diplomatic start that has been made. And it is in this context that we view the planned visit of the People’s United Party to the Sarstoon. That visit, if it proceeds, would very likely undermine the position reached yesterday at the OAS, and all our painstaking work could go for nought. To our mind it is therefore imperative that no group should go to the Sarstoon before we would have had a chance, in the remaining three weeks that the law is in force, to conclude our negotiations with the Guatemalans. Now the PUP is the Constitutional Opposition of this country, and has a particular role and responsibility far above that of any ordinary civilian organization. We would thus hope that the PUP would stay its hand in view of what has happened in Washington, so as to give the negotiations-which we again invite them to be a central part of-an opportunity to finalize. I accordingly make a formal appeal to them to postpone their Sarstoon trip, rejoin the Government in the negotiating process with Guatemala, and help to secure the diplomatic result that Belize needs to guarantee its rights
Prime Minister Barrow was asked to comment on resolution by congress as well as the press release from the Guatemalan government responding to his previous press conference statements. That Guatemalan statement said it deplored and rejected the Belize Prime Minister’s comment that Guatemala’s response to the shooting death of the Guatemalan child was “unjustified, disproportionate and incendiary “
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: The resolution by Congress I am not going to get into that, no doubt the congress is extremely important in the governance of Guatemala but clearly we are not going to be in a position to engage congress. We engage the executive so I am going to concentrate on what the executive has to say and what the executive does. Now I don’t know why whatever the congress says should be cause for skepticism in terms of what has emerged from the meetings in Washington. There is the secretary general’s statement that statement as I understand it was seen before its release by both Belize and Guatemala and that statement went out as it is. Reading the plain words of the statement, I don’t know that anybody could quarrel with my description of what has happened as and I repeat my words a bit of a breakthrough.
Prime Minister Barrow says he saw a report that the Mayor of Melchor was saying that the reduced traffic to Melchor from Belizeans has affected their local Melchor economy
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: I saw a report which suggested that the Mayor of Melchor was extremely concerned that in the immediate aftermath of the Sebada incident, and to the statement made to his nation made by President Morales that there was a drying up of the regular stream of visitors from Benque Viejo to Melchor. The mayor was concerned because it was hurting their business.
Plustv has been informed that SATIIM has also been banned from the Sarstoon as they were not allowed by the BDF to enter the Sarstoon.
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: The rationale would be simple there is the regulation enforced which prohibits civilians from going to the Sarstoon without lawful authority, presumably if the SATIIM people were denied access to the Sarstoon by the B.D.F. it is because they did not in the context of the regulation have the lawful permission.
Reporter: Sir, at the press conference at NEMO headquarters I Belmopan, you when through a list of those who could be allowed and you gave the impression at least in my interpretation of your comments, that those who were prohibited from going to Sarstoon would particularly be those who for political reasons endanger your negotiation process, specifically you said the BTV. I left that meeting believing it was the Wil’s law.
Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: Mr. Wade I would hope that we are not going to get into any sort of argument, in fact, I know we won’t because I won’t have it, I won’t get into any argument with you, You are perfectly correct that I did say that preoccupation, the concern is with those that want to go to the Sarstoon to make some sort of a political statement. I am telling you that SATIIM if they were not allowed to go to the Sarstoon would have been stopped on the basis that they did not have the lawful permission, I don’t know of SATIIM having applied to anyone for the lawful permission. I certainly wouldn’t expect that any group would attempt to go without beforehand seeking that lawful permission, okay.