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Belize urges Guatemala to sign protocol governing Sarstoon River

By CMC

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(CMC) – Prime Minister Dean Barrow has called on Guatemala to sign “the damn protocol” that governs the movement of people along the Sarstoon River.

In 2015, representatives of both countries met in Istanbul, Turkey to hammer out an agreement, but that has not materialized.

Despite a concerted effort by the Organization of American States (OAS) and other regional organizations, Guatemala hasn’t been persuaded to sign an agreement.

The Sarstoon River (Spanish: Río in the Toledo District of Belize, forms the country’s southern boundary with Guatemala.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, speaking to reporters, said that the Guatemalans are in fact, poking a finger in the eye of the OAS and other international organization, adding it “is something that Belize continues to maintain.

“The Foreign Minister will tell you that there is a Belize/Guatemala Commission and again we cannot have a meeting of the commission without our side saying to the Guatemalans, you need to sign the damn protocol.”

Ambassador Alexis Rosado, Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, who also heads the Referendum

“All of them have repeated called on the Guatemalans to engage with us for the development of a mechanism for confidence building measures along the Sarstoon.

“This has been going on repeatedly since 2015; every time they meet, they repeat the same statement and those messages are delivered to Guatemala,” he added.

Guatemala and Belize have a long running border dispute and the matter is likely to go before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Barrow said the date for eligible voters to determine whether the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala should go before the ICJ will not be changed.

The referendum will be held on April 10 next year and Barrow said there’s no possibility of postponing the exercise.

The opposition has called on the government to postpone the referendum until after rhe 2020 general election.

“The ICJ referendum date is April 10, 2019 and we have no intention of changing that date. Apart from his public statements, the Leader of the Opposition (John Briceno) had raised privately with me the possibility of a postponement when we met a little over a week ago.

“But I did not find the reasons offered for the suggestion at all convincing especially since the postponement the PUP leader wanted was until after the November 2020 elections. The arguments for postponement, as I understood them, was that April tenth, 2019 is too close to November 2020 and to hold the referendum as scheduled would somehow contaminate it with partisan electoral campaigning for 2020.

“But unless there is a deliberate People’s United Party (PUP) plan to do that to have that happen, the year and a half between April 10, 2019 and November 2019 would surely provide enough of a firewall distance between the two events.

“Then it was most recently said by the Leader of the Opposition that the fact that our ICJ legal brief is not yet fully formalized is another reason for postponement. But again, that makes no sense. Why would we completely finalize our ICJ preparations before we even know if we are going to the ICJ,” said Barrow.

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