Belize outlines proposal to end border dispute

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

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BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — Belize has outlined 11 new proposals that it hopes will end the latest border dispute with Guatemala, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington has said.

Elrington, who met with his Guatemalan counterpart, Carlos Raul Morales, last Friday to discuss the incident in the Sarstoon area, said that Belize is hoping the new proposals will form part of a new agreement between the two countries.

Elrington said that Belize is hoping that the "channels of the Sarstoon River shall continue to be freely navigable by vessels and boats of each of the two countries without any interference or trailing by the other".

Last month, the Belize government called on the Organisation of American States (OAS) to conduct an investigation following a shooting incident in which a senior Belize Defence Force (BDF) member was shot at least four times while in the Sarstoon area.

Guatemala and Belize have had a long-running border dispute, with Guatemala claiming the whole or part of Belize since 1940.

Last month, the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) reiterated its support for Belize.

Belize sent a protest note to Guatemala over the incident, but the Guatemalans replied disagreeing with Belmopan’s version of the incident.

Elrington said that the second proposal calls for "whenever any vessels of any one of the parties approaches the base of the other party or any other vessel, it shall reduce its speed as a token of respect and friendship and to avoid injury or damage to persons or property".

He said the law enforcement and armed forces of both parties shall refrain from any threatening, abusive or unfriendly actions, words or behaviour of any kind with respect to each other in and around the said river.

"Law enforcement and armed forces of both parties shall respect the right of the citizens of each other to make lawful and environmentally sustainable use of the river for fishing and recreation," Elrington said, adding that the "parties shall cooperate to prevent or limit hazards and reduce and eliminate adverse consequences arising from floods, droughts and incidents involving substances hazardous to water."

He said that the parties shall also co-operate on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual benefit and good fate in order to promote and achieve the goals of this agreement and that both parties shall cooperate in preventing and countering any illegal activities including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling, contraband and other illegal activities of a transnational nature.

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