Foreign Ministers of Belize and Guatemala acknowledge OAS contribution to seeking solution to their territorial differendum
Jul 15, 2019 - 5:00:32 PM
The Foreign Ministers of Belize, Wilfred Elrington; and Guatemala, Sandra Jovel, today spoke to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) about the progress made in recent years to find a permanent and definitive solution to the territorial differendum involving both nations for several decades, especially the decision by both countries to submit the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
During the meeting, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, congratulated both governments for having held referenda to submit the case to the International Court of Justice, in compliance with an agreement signed in 2008. Secretary General Almagro recalled that "after decades of unsuccessful bilateral negotiations, in March 2000 both governments went to the OAS to begin a new process of dialogue. Since then the process has made great progress, both in the political area and in the field." He also explained the work and impact of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone, through which "more than 200 incidents between residents of the zone and the military forces have been verified, and many more have been prevented, effectively fulfilling its work as a neutral, independent and objective interlocutor at the time of the incidents."
For his part, the Foreign Minister of Belize spoke of the expectations that both countries have of continuing to improve and strengthen bilateral relations. "Peace and security is what we seek" he said, pointing out that "we will still need the presence of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone, which has done a tremendous job to ensure that we have not deteriorated into any kind of a violent conflict between our two countries and that we can maintain peace and good order."
Likewise, the Foreign Minister of Guatemala referred to the contributions of the OAS in particular, and of the international community in general, in achieving the important steps taken. "The time is opportune to recognize and thank the Organization and its member states, and I feel privileged to bear witness to the fruit of the work of this Organization and proud that my country belongs to a community of states that promotes high values through actions and not just with words," she said. "The numerous achievements made under the support of the OAS are not the product of chance, the OAS is an institution that is much more than professionalism and political will," added Foreign Minister Jovel.
In 2008 and with the support of the OAS, the governments of Belize and Guatemala signed the Special Agreement to Submit Guatemala's Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim to the International Court for a final decision, opening the way for the first time to a definitive and permanent solution.
The popular referendum on the territorial dispute was held in Guatemala on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in which the “yes” vote (agree to submit the ICJ the claim against Belize) won with 95.88%. In Belize the referendum was held on May 8, 2019, with the “yes” vote also winning (to agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize related to lands and maritime areas must be submitted to the ICJ) with 53.38%.
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