Prime Minister briefs public on bi-partisan meetings in Washington DC concerning Sarstoon

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

On Thursday, May 5th, Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow held a press conference along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Honourable Wilfred Elrington to report on meetings held with Guatemala at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington DC, USA. However, the press conference left attendees with many unclear answers, as Barrow was unable to say what progress the meetings had with the Guatemalans, except that it took place and that he was optimistic.

Belizean and Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Ministers: Wilfred Elrington and Carlos Raul Morales along with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro

Belizean and Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Ministers: Wilfred Elrington and Carlos Raul Morales along with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro

The Prime Minister opened the press conference by stating the importance of a statement made by OAS’ Secretary-General Luis Almagro, wherein he asked Belize and Guatemala to cooperate on the formulation of protocols in the Sarstoon area. “We greatly appreciate OAS Secretary-General’s statement following his meeting with Belize and Guatemala. This makes it clear that the two nations are to adopt a cooperation mechanism as soon as possible to normalize the situation in the Sarstoon,” said Barrow.
However, that was not what Belizeans wanted to hear, and when Barrow was questioned about what was really discussed in the meetings, he could not tell the media what the breakthrough was. “None of us is going to get into the details of the exchanges. I am utterly satisfied that in describing the meetings as constructive, there was a positive spirit,” said Barrow. “Looking at the statement of the Secretary-General makes us feel encouraged, and we are able to say to the Belizean people that this is progress.” Barrow believes that the meetings will lead to the start of a negotiation exercise that can, and will, resolve the problems over the Sarstoon.

Right Honorable Dean Barrow

Right Honorable Dean Barrow

On his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Wilfred Elrington explained that the Prime Minister was informed of everything he needed to know, and his message to the nation is that he has nothing to hide. “We have briefed the Prime Minister as to all that we know. We have provided him with all the information on this matter and he has heard from myself, from Ambassador Alexis Rosado who attended all the meetings,” said Elrington. “He is well informed of the details and facts and I don’t think that we can add anything more to what he said.”
At the end, the Opposition Party was once again invited to re-join the government’s diplomatic efforts the Government of Belize (GOB) has launched. The People’s United Party was not appeased with the fact that they were not consulted in the meetings held in Washington. However, the government claimed that there was no intention to spite the Opposition from participating in the meetings. “We are very much aware of the value of a united approach on this issue,” said Barrow.
As of Friday, April 29th, GOB placed temporary restrictions of movement on the Belizean portion of the Sarstoon River for a month. The restriction came in view after the Belize Territorial Volunteers attempted to visit Sarstoon area on Saturday, April 30th to commemorate the 1859 treaty. The decision made by the government has not been well received by the Opposition and other organizations in the country. However, GOB maintains that until negotiations actually begin, they are not comfortable in concluding that all danger has been eliminated regarding large-scale, civilian/political expeditions to the Sarstoon.

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