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Sep 19, 2017

Current and Former Foreign Affairs Ministers Clash on Border Issue

But what really are Belize’s most important threats – as the Minister defined them, things that can cause injury, pain and harm, either from internal or external sources? Apart from those others he mentioned and some that do not directly affect Belize, the most obvious one is the Guatemalan claim, on which Elrington touched in the last third of his speech. Notably, Elrington contends that because Guatemala alone does not recognize Belize’s borders, they are not internationally recognized. But former Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Courtenay, appearing on this station’s Open Your Eyes this morning, refuted that assertion by quoting the 2002 legal opinion on the claim in which experts conclude that the U.N.’s resolutions admitting Belize four days after Independence ensure that our borders are in fact internationally recognized.

 

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign and Home Affairs

“The choice now facing us is stark and inescapable: shall we act decisively and peacefully now to put an end to the claim? Or shall we neglect this priceless opportunity which has eluded our predecessors for over one hundred and fifty years? The conditions have never been more favorable for us to bring an end to this claim. Our legal advisors including both former judges of the I.C.J. and seasoned practitioners before that court have consistently assured us that we have an ironclad legal case. The United Nations has also publicly proclaimed our right to independent, sovereign and with full territorial integrity. Our western and southern borders are recognized by the entire world, with the exception of Guatemala. And because Guatemala is the only one that does not recognize it, we are not deemed to be internationally recognized – the borders are not deemed to be internationally recognized, because one country, our neighbor, does not recognize it.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Former Foreign Affairs Minister

“The Foreign Minister is wrong as a matter of fact; he is wrong as a matter of law, and the Prime Minister should put him in check, the Prime Minister should correct him, the Prime Minister should tell him to shut up. It is a disgrace, it is a shame that we have this document, called the Legal Opinion on Guatemala’s Claim to Belize, issued in 2002 – fifteen years ago, and it seems to me that the Foreign Minister has not read it. Yet he is around Belize and around the world supposedly representing Belize, and articulating something that is completely contrary to what our experts have advised. It is a disgrace. But in this case…, there is an exceptional added element of recognition of the borders of the state so admitted. The multiple resolutions of the United Nations, quoted above, in referring to “all the territory” and to the “territorial integrity” of Belize within borders inviolable and intact, do appear to define or recognize those borders. The resolutions indicate that the general assembly, in implementing its authority enunciated in resolution fifteen point one-four, has promoted the self-determination and independence of a colonial territory within the whole of the colonial borders of that territory. Finally – listen to this – but in the end, it was Guatemala alone that failed to support the resolution affirming the territorial integrity of Belize, inviolable and intact within the traditional borders, and Guatemala alone voted against the admission of Belize to membership in the United Nations. Belize was admitted to membership in the United Nations in 1981, having acceded to statehood on September twenty-first, 1981. While the resolution admitting it does not refer to the geographical extent of the states admitted, nor do the resolutions admitting other members, antecedent resolutions make it plain that in the view of virtually every member of the United Nations apart from Guatemala, the borders of Belize are those obtained under British rule. In light of these resolutions and the debates that led to their adoption, it may be concluded that the international community recognizes the state of Belize as comprising the whole of the land territory which Belize maintains that its borders encompass.”

 

Elrington also noted that Belize’s maritime boundaries including the exclusive economic zone have never been recognized.

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