(L-R): Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize; José Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General; and Luis Fernando Carrera, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala. Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
WASHINGTON, USA -- The foreign ministers of Belize and Guatemala, Wilfred Elrington and Fernando Carrera, and the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, on Friday at the headquarters of the multilateral Organization signed an agreement entitled “Road Map and Plan of Action", which has as its main objective the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between the two countries during 2014 in order to make concrete the holding of popular consultations to enable the consideration of the territorial dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Insulza emphasized the importance of the two countries deciding to coordinate joint activities, because doing so "means moving toward a more stable relationship."
"The more dense the international relations between countries, the greater their stability and permanence," he added, because "to be able to develop significant projects in the areas of the environment, security, labor, immigration, health or education helps people to get to know and value each other."
Elrington said the agreed document "evidences the commitment and resolution of the governments of Belize and Guatemala, with the support of the OAS, to seek to use our best efforts to develop the essential climate of trust and confidence."
"We intend to seek a judicial resolution of the claim. However, this judicial solution would be empty if we do not have an excellent relationship between our countries, a relationship characterized by trust and openness between our peoples," said Elrington, who analyzed the history of the territorial dispute in which he stressed the agreement reached in 2008 between the two countries, in which they agreed to obtain the consent of their citizens to bring the dispute to the ICJ.
Regarding the process of popular consultation, the foreign minister of Belize noted that the two countries "are acting in the best traditions of democracy" and expressed his gratitude for the support received from the OAS during the process.
"This support is very important, since it is imperative that we have no impediment to maintain that kind of harmonious relationship we have," he said.
Carrera recalled the important relationship between his country and Belize and emphasized that the agreement "will contribute to ensuring that for next year this relationship will not only remain as peaceful as it has been for many years, but also that this positive relationship will be strengthened."
In this regard, he stressed the need to ensure that the political, economic, cultural, educational and religious leaders of both countries maintain fluid and permanent communications, "because dialogue creates the possibility for peace anywhere."
The Guatemalan foreign minister referred to the possibility of taking the territorial dispute to the ICJ, recalling that the juridical solution "must be accompanied by a political solution based on dialogue, which is what must prevail in this process."
"The day we get a ruling from the ICJ our people must perceive it as the culmination of a process rather than the beginning of a relationship," he said. With the road map agreed, he said, "we are taking the first steps so that when the court issues a ruling, we are all willing to accept and follow up on it."
In closing the ceremony, Insulza explained that the road map and plan of action outline the activities, programs and projects to be implemented to promote the confidence building measures between the two countries, and added that the agreement "brings us closer to the possibility of a final resolution of this dispute."
"The plans reflected in the roadmap have an important political content in themselves, in that they contribute to a much more stable bilateral relationship," he noted.
The OAS secretary general also referred to the work of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone between Belize and Guatemala during the last ten years. Among the tasks of the office he noted that in the last year more than 100 acts of verification of incidents or difficulties that arose in the area were conducted, the resettlement of the last Guatemalan families who lived in the Adjacency Zone administered by Belize was supported, as were programs promoting a culture of peace and training aimed at strengthening the bonds of friendship between the youth of the two neighbouring countries; meetings of mayors, immigration and customs officials were held; and various socio-economic projects with the communities in the area were carried out.
"All this," added the secretary general, "was done with our main objective in mind, which is the work of verification and the work with the authorities and the foreign ministers of both governments."
"We are very optimistic, we have made verifiable progress in recent years, the more we strengthen the daily relations between communities and the different sectors of both countries, the more dense and stable the relationships will be, and we will be closer to a definitive solution in the coming years," Insulza concluded.