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May 24, 2016

Belize and Guatemala Negotiate Sarstoon Protocol in Istanbul

That’s big news indeed, since the Sarstoon has remained a potential flashpoint for months. So that brings us to the Istanbul talks, scheduled for May twenty-first. We’re told they didn’t happen then, but actually on Monday and today with the participation of Magdalena Talamas representing O.A.S. Secretary-General Luis Almagro. Looking at a release on those discussions issued by the government this morning, there’s no mention of the informal agreement for unhindered trafficking of the Sarstoon by Belizean military and civilians. In fact, the Sarstoon River is mentioned only once, when the release states that, “both Ministers recognized the urgent need for and committed to working on the design and development of a mechanism for cooperation in the Sarstoon River, which should include the participation of relevant institutions of both Parties and be coordinated by both Foreign Ministries with the participation of the Organization of American States.” Apart from that ambiguous gem – in a nutshell, the release contains only the often-expressed commitment to peace and good faith, the long-held recognition of the importance of the thirteen bilateral agreements, a reiteration that the territorial dispute should be resolved at the ICJ and a recognition that incidents in the adjacency zone need to be avoided. The Belize delegation is expected back in country on Thursday when we’d expect to get a little more information on the matters discussed and any agreement reached, especially where the Sarstoon is concerned.

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