Terrorism, security dominate talks with Bush and Caricom leaders
WASHINGTON DC, USA – Terrorism and regional security, including the protection of regional borders, dominated yesterday’s talks between Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders in their meeting with United States President George W Bush at the State Department yesterday.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, in an interview immediately after the meeting at the State Department, said the threat posed by terrorism and narco-trafficking was presented as the biggest danger to regional stability by the leaders who are attending the Conference on the Caribbean here.
“The meeting was frank and direct and that’s the key. We mentioned the issues of vital importance to the region – the issue of security, playing our role in the global community as it faces the problem of terrorism and drug trafficking – and other related crime issues as a whole,” Dr Mitchell said.
According to the Caricom spokesman, the region has never been a haven for terrorism or terrorist activities and suggested that specific problems could be dealt with.
“What we have said and he (US president) has committed himself to it, and we also have done so, is to work very closely at the intelligence level to deal with any perceived or real problems that may emerge in the future,” said Dr Mitchell.
He said, too, that there was also a commitment from the president that intelligence sharing should work for both the Caribbean and the United States.
The regional leadership also presented a unified case for security, which was articulated by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
“The point was made that if the region becomes unstable for any reason, it will affect the security of the United States border. Because we are the third border, and I think the point was well understood by President Bush,” Dr Mitchell told reporters.
Some Caribbean states have served as trans-shipment ports for drugs and other illicit goods entering the United States, and increasingly Washington has become worried that it could become a major point of entry for terrorists seeking entry into the US.
The recent arrests of four Caribbean nationals on alleged terrorism plots to blow up the JFK airport in New York underscored the need for improved security in the Caribbean.
The lack of opportunities and infrastructural investment in educational facilities within the region was also raised with the US president by the Caribbean leaders.
Additionally, the Caribbean leaders mentioned the effects migration of skilled labour was having on the region.
Yesterday’s meeting with the US president followed Tuesday’s meeting between Caricom foreign ministers and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The conference continues today.