Statement by the Honorable Dean Barrow on meetings at OAS Headquarters in Washington and the planned trip to the Sarstoon by the PUP
Thursday, May 5th, 2016
We greatly appreciate the OAS 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 SG put it, he “welcomed the readiness of both parties to advance in the negotiations of the cooperation mechanism” for the Sarstoon.
GOB 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 so as to give our diplomacy a chance to work, especially in light of these Washington meetings which we had been seeking. The fact that those meetings took place successfully on Tuesday and Wednesday is, I reiterate, vindication of our strategy.
We repeat, though, that the situation will remain tricky until we reach final agreement. There was a positive spirit that informed the Washington meetings, and that also animated informal exchanges with the Guatemalans, which makes us optimistic. 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.
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