'Promising talks'

Jamaica's PM describes meeting with President Trump

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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FLORIDA, USA (CMC) – President Donald Trump yesterday held talks with leaders of four Caribbean countries, with Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness describing the meeting as “promising”.

Trump, who met with the leaders of Jamaica, Haiti, St Lucia, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, had earlier described them as “friends of mine who had done a wonderful job in their respective countries.

“We will be talking about many subjects, trade…and also we will be discussing... I have a feeling, Venezuela. It has become a very big topic all over the world and we look forward to spending a lot of time discussing ways that could be beneficial to you and beneficial to us”.

The United States along with its allies have been seeking to remove President Nicolįs Maduro from office in favour of the Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim president of the South American country.

Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts-Nevis last month had reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The White House had said that the meeting yesterday would also discuss China's economic role in the region.

In a message posted on his Twitter page, Prime Minister Holness wrote “our first meeting as Caribbean leaders with the US president was promising as we anticipate further discussions on energy trade, security and issues to do with peace and stability within the region”.

In a brief message, the White House later reported that the leaders “discussed the importance of supporting a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela, disaster resilience, opportunities for investment and ongoing security cooperation”.

In the meantime, the Antigua and Barbuda Government says it is regrettable that the firm united position adopted by Caricom leaders on the situation in Venezuela appears to be breaking apart.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Melford Nicholas reiterated St John's position of non-interference in Caracas, and support for Caricom's position on the matter despite Trump's intent for the meeting with the leaders of St Lucia, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, and Haiti.

“It is what it is. We cannot boost the intent of Mr Trump and what he intends to do. But so far as Antigua and Barbuda is concerned, wherever we have to be engaged with international powers in any hemisphere or in any inter-agency, we take positions based on principles,” Nicholas said.

“We do not consider ourselves hostile to any country,” he added.

On Thursday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said those attending the meeting at Trump's private residence in Miami were “the ones who have agreed to be a part of the Lima Group. And what is the objective of the Lima Group? The objective of the Lima Group is regime change in Venezuela”.

He said it was for that those attending that meeting to indicate how that will be achieved but “what we are going to do resolutely and without apology as a tiny speck on the world's map…is to stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world”.

The four countries had also voted in January at the Organisation of American States (OAS) not to recognise Maduro's second term in office.

The White House had said that the meeting on Friday would also discuss China's economic role in the region and Nicholas said that Washington's criticism of Beijing does not reflect the support the Asian country has given to the region.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, responding to concerns raised by US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo about accepting gifts from China, said that Washington should provide more aid to these nations and not spend billions on useless wars.

“Those who are opposed to China's deepening influence in the hemisphere need to talk less and perhaps they need to put some diplomatic dollars or development assistance on the table.”

Earlier this week, Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit praised China for its support of his hurricane-battered country, saying “there are times when other interests, other countries will want to create a wedge between Dominica and China or a certain degree of mistrust among our peoples especially in relation to the aid and the assistance which China has been providing not only to Dominica but to more than 190 countries around the world”.

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