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Belize: Former foreign ministers back move to ICJ to settle border dispute


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Prime Minister Dean Barrow (center) with former foreign affairs ministers including former prime minister Said Musa (second from left)

(CMC) – Five former foreign affairs ministers say it has become “clear’ that no Guatemalan government is prepared to voluntarily accept Belize’s territorial integrity and are supporting the decision to have the matter go before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The former ministers, including Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his predecessor, Said Musa, have issued a declaration in which they said they reached their position on the Guatemala-Belize border dispute going before the ICJ after “careful consideration”.

“After more than 50 years of arduous negotiations, it has become clear that no Guatemalan government will ever agree to voluntarily accept Belize’s territorial integrity based on the 1859 treaty,” they said in the declaration.

The Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute has been ongoing for over 150 years, and according to the Guatemalans, it is all based on the 1859 boundary treaty with the United Kingdom, which claims Guatemala inherited the British occupied territory that is now Belize from Spain

A referendum on the territorial dispute will be held here on April 10 this year. Belizean voters will decide whether or not to take the dispute with Guatemala to the ICJ for a final resolution. Guatemala held its referendum on April 15, last year.

In their declaration, the former foreign ministers said if the claim is not adjudicated by the ICJ “the Guatemalan government will continue to maintain that there are no boundaries between our countries.

“It will continue its attempts to impose its claims by the show of force. It will fail to prevent its citizens illegally entering our territory, stealing our resources and severely damaging our environment and water supplies”.

In addition, the former ministers said seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ “would not solve the problem since that would have no more weight than the countless diplomatic declarations that we have already gotten from almost every international organisation”.

“In addition, the result of advisory opinions sought by other nations whose entire territories were likewise under attack, such as Western Sahara and Palestine, is not something that Belizeans could possibly entertain.”

The former ministers said that since the ICJ “is obliged to look at only the evidence and to apply only the law” they believe “there is no likelihood of Belize losing any territory, whether terrestrial or maritime.

“In additional, all international lawyers who have who have fully examined all the evidence on both sides, including several who have advised Guatemala, have concluded that Guatemala has no arguable case against Belize”.

The declaration notes that this is not the first time “in the long history of attempts to resolve” the border dispute and the former minister said they remain confident that “going to the ICJ will permit us to obtain a legally enforceable vindication of our rights”.

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