Belize and Guatemalan Foreign Ministers at the OAS Adjacency Zone Office Print

Relations between Belize and Guatemala have never been so cordial. Such was a conclusion made on Tuesday by the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs during a meeting with his counterpart from Guatemala in the Adjacency Zone.

In keeping with the friendly atmosphere, on Tuesday, the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, along with his counterpart, Her Excellency Sandra Jovel Polanco, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guatemala, paid a joint official visit to the Office of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Adjacency Zone at the western border. The Foreign Ministers and their respective delegations were joined by Mr. Washington Abdala, Special Representative for the Secretary General of the OAS for Belize and Guatemala.

The visit included a bilateral meeting, a presentation about development projects implemented in the communities along the border, and other presentations on other OAS-led border programs.

The Ministers updated each other on preparations for their respective referenda to obtain the consent of their citizens to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Minister Elrington and Minister Jovel reiterated their governments’ intent to resolve the Belize/Guatemala differendum at the ICJ and to further strengthen bilateral relations. They also expressed support for the strengthening of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone; as it benefits both countries.

Following multiple cultural presentations by students from the Cultural Peace Project, Foreign Minister Jovel invited Foreign Minister Elrington and his delegation for lunch in Melchor de Mencos, Petén.

The Belize delegation included Mr. Jose Alpuche, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture; H.E. Mr. Alexis Rosado, Ambassador of Belize to Guatemala; as well as other senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hon. Orlando Habet, representative of the Leader of the Opposition, was also in attendance.

The OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone was established in July 2003 with the aim of fostering community to community contacts across the border, to monitor the implementation and execution of confidence building measures, to conduct verification of border incidents, and to improve relations and cooperation among inhabitants of the western border area. The Office is headed by a Director.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, we asked the Hon. Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco on what the Guatemalan Government was doing in regards to the Guatemalan military imposing itself in the Sarstoon. The Hon. Jovel responded that the meetings that have recently been held between Belize and Guatemala was to strengthen the relationship and bring a culture of peace; as was reflected by Tuesday’s meeting.

Other members of the media also asked the Hon. Jovel on the International Court of Justice. The Hon. Jovel said that on April 15th the Guatemalan people will be going to a popular consultation-- to take the territorial, insular and maritime dispute to the International Court of Justice. Guatemala’s top diplomat told us that it is the ICJ that will decide the process.

The Hon. Wilfred Erlington also responded to the media, clarifying that while this was the first time that the Hon. Jovel has been at the Adjacency Zone, her predecessors have been there on a number of occasions.

“I don’t think that we have had a better reception than the one she has received, this was a very good program. very wonderfully choreographed… as you saw the kids were so spontaneous and so absolutely talented and exited,  I was particularly impressed by the gusto in which the songs about peace and wanting to live together in peace and friendship and brotherhood and that means volumes to us, younger people obviously have the right idea and we must nourish that.”

Belize Foreign Minister also spoke about the relationship between Belize and Guatemala.

“I don’t think there has been a better time in terms of the relationship between us at all levels at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs level, we are very cordial, very, very cordial, very close, as a matter of fact the Foreign Minister is very proactive and very much interested in enhancing the relationship between us, apart from getting the Guatemala issue solved.”

In reference to the ICJ, Belize’s Foreign Minister said, “The ICJ is an imperative for all right thinking persons,  both in Belize and Guatemala, because we have a dispute, a dispute which none of us caused,  but which we inherited and the only place we can resolve it peacefully and without harm being done to anybody both territory or person is by going to the ICJ, the ICJ is important because the ICJ tells us what are our legal rights and entitlement, we may have a view as Belizeans, the Guat [emalans] may have a view….but when we go to the ICJ, the ICJ is going to tell us what in fact is the proper position in law, and you have heard the Foreign Minister say that Guat [emalan] is disposed to observing the decision of the ICJ, accepting it and we certainly believe they do so as well.”