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Feb 24, 2004

Controversy surrounds Belize statement at Hague

By international standards it is a tempest in a teapot, but these days anything even remotely touching the explosive Middle East situation seems to be hit by bomb fragments. How Belize got involved in the latest controversy at the International Court of Justice at The Hague is somewhat murky, but we somehow wound up as one of a dozen nations presenting oral arguments in support of Palestine in its efforts to have the security wall now being constructed by Israel declared illegal. While Belize’s position on the wall and on the entire Palestine issue is no mystery, the decision to become one of the few non Arab or Muslim countries to speak at The Hague was apparently the subject of much internal debate. Making the drama even more bizarre were comments allegedly made by Cabinet Secretary Robert Leslie who is quoted by Israeli Radio as calling the move some kind of mistake. “It is not in the interest of Belize to participate or to make statements on these matters at this time.” Leslie is quoted as saying. For its part, Foreign Ministry C.E.O. Lawrence Sylvestre told News 5 that The Hague appearance was no mistake; that it is fully in line with our policy of upholding the principles of international law.

That policy could be anticipating the possibility that Belize may one day find itself in front of that same court trying to settle the Guatemalan claim. As it turns out, Belize’s actual statement against the wall, delivered by our Ambassador to UNESCO, Bassam Freiha, was the mildest of all those delivered today, referring to acts of terrorism committed against Israel and its right to protect its citizens.

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