Many of you may remember that on Friday of last week a draft proposal was presented to Guatemala by a Belizean delegation during a bilateral meeting that took place at the OAS office at the adjacency zone in Benque Viejo. After the draft proposal was presented, the Guatemalan delegation asked for a one week grace period to consider the proposal and deliver a response.
That week is up and although GOB has not officially spoken on the issue, information is that Guatemala has rejected the 11 proposals without offering an alternative. For context, we revisit Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrignton’s presentation on the draft proposals.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington- Minister Foreign Affairs
“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. The second…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. Three…the law enforcement and armed forces of both parties shall refrain from any threatening, abusive or unfriendly actions, words or behavior of any kind with respect to each other in and around the said river. Four…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. Five…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. Six…the parties shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual benefit and good fate in order to promote and achieve the goals of this agreement. Seven…the 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. And to this end, the parties may develop plans and conduct joint law enforcement and military patrols or operations including search and rescue which may include the participation of third countries. Eight…the parties shall cooperate to avoid incidents on the Sarstoon River conducive to tensions between them, in the event of such an incident, the parties should immediately communicate with one another to contain it, resolve it and prevent its recurrence. Nine….as a matter of courtesy and to promote good working relations, commanders assigned to the Sarstoon River may visit each other by mutual arrangement to discuss matters of mutual interests. Ten…the parties shall, on a regular basis, exchange information. This includes an undertaking for any one party to inform the other party, beforehand, of any non-routine activity in or near the Sarstoon River. By mutual arrangement, the parties shall install practical means of radio and other communications to facilitate these exchanges. Eleven…if a dispute arises between the parties as to the interpretation or implementation of this protocol, they shall seek as soon as reasonably practicable to resolve it by negotiation and should they fail to satisfactorily resolve any such dispute, either of the parties may request the Secretary General of the O.A.S. to use his good offices to propose a solution to this dispute and the other party hereby agrees to accept such offices and to comply in good fate with the recommendations of the Secretary General.”
Information is that Guatemala has proposed that both countries instead just go back to maintaining the existing conditions at the Sarstoon. Which according to Guatemala, is that any Belizean vessel, whether civilian or military, must ask permission from Guatemalan Armed Forces stationed at the mouth of the Sarstoon before entering the river. As we told you before Government is yet to comment on the latest development.
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