Fruitful talks

Fruitful talks

Pompeo's assurance of support for requests from Jamaica leaves Holness smiling

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 23, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness emerged from closed-door bilateral talks with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just after nine yesterday morning with a broad smile, but it was almost at the end of the just over 20-minute joint media briefing afterwards that the reason for his cheerful demeanour became clear.

After delivering prepared presentations and taking four questions — two from members of the local media and two from American journalists — Holness pointed to what he deemed the major success of the almost hour-long discussion of the two delegations.

“I probably didn't convey how well our meeting went. We had very frank discussions. Jamaica was able to raise, in direct ways, our perspective on difficult and complex issues, and I believe that the United States [delegation] was equally upfront in their perspectives as well,” said Holness, having earlier outlined some of the areas of support Jamaica was seeking from the US.

“I am pleased to say that we found common understanding on the urgent need to scale up our security cooperation. The main focus will be on bolstering Jamaica's capacity to counter transnational organised crime, secure our borders and ports, and interrupt the flow of illicit weapons into the country,” said Holness.

“I cannot overstate the urgency with which we need to address these security matters. The Jamaican public most recently heard me underscore this in my new year's message, and I have also emphasised their importance in my discussions with Secretary Pompeo today. Mr Secretary, we are therefore greatly heartened to have your pledge of support as we move to rigorously implement Plan Secure Jamaica,” added Holness.

He argued that at the wider level, securing Jamaica also requires sustained intervention on the economic and social front.

“We are determined to position Jamaica to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to grow the economy so that large and small businesses, as well as our communities and citizens, can reap the benefits.

“I therefore reaffirmed Jamaica's keen interest in and plans to build upon the economic partnership between the United States and Jamaica. We will bolster cooperation in the area of energy security, increased trade, and importantly, we re-stated our desire to see greater US investment in Jamaica and across the region,” declared Holness.

He also underscored the importance of the Jamaica/US partnership in confronting natural disasters through risk reduction, building resilient communities and improving disaster response.

Holness added: “We, therefore, very much welcome the US-Caribbean Resilience Partnership launched last April, as it has given greater impetus to our efforts in this truly existential challenge for Jamaica and the Caribbean as a whole.

“For our regional engagement, the US-Caribbean 2020 Engagement Strategy also sets the course for further work to promote prosperity, energy security, health and well-being, peace and security, and ongoing high-level political engagement in the years ahead.”

While not providing details on the discussions regarding Venezuela and the controversy surrounding the looming election for the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Holness said during the talks the US and Jamaica concurred on the importance of these issues being resolved in a peaceful, but timely manner and for the people who face hardship to receive the fullest support of the international community in order to exercise their rights and enjoy their dignity.

“We reiterated the valuable role of the OAS in supporting countries of the hemisphere and expressed the desire for the OAS to continue playing this role through strong leadership, strategic and sustainable planning, and of course, responsible action by its members,” said Holness.

For his part Pompeo used the media briefing to underscore the historical close relationship between Jamaica and the US which, he said, extended beyond the proximity of the two nations.

“Today in our meeting, the prime minister and I strengthened our country's friendship and set the table for greater engagement,” said Pompeo as he noted that American companies have already invested nearly $1 billion in energy infrastructure in Jamaica.

“The United States has supported Caribbean nations with more than $600 million in much-needed funding for this fight [against drug flow and transnational crime] over this past decade,” added Pompeo as he declared his commitment to work with the Jamaican Government in the future.


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