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Sep 24, 2002

Ambassadors work to explain proposals

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The excitement that surrounded last week’s release of the proposals has subsided and with the departure of facilitators Sir Shridath Ramphal and O.A.S. Assistant Secretary General Luigi Enaudi, it is now left to the Belize Government to explain and ultimately sell the package to Belizeans. That process, which will rely heavily on diplomatic personnel involved in the talks, has already begun in earnest. I was on hand for one such session this afternoon.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

This afternoon, Belize’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Stuart Leslie took his turn in the hot seat to present the proposals package to end the Guatemalan claim to a small group representing the Belize Tourism Industry Association. The material is no longer new, but Leslie took the opportunity to break it down into small change.

Stuart Leslie, Belize’s Ambassador to the U.N.

“We don’t want to go into Santa Rosa guns blazing and force people out and burn their crops and so on. So this is something that we will have to sit down together with the Guatemalans and work out how we’re gonna deal with the movement of those people from Santa Rosa. The main intention is to move them, whether they are removed as Guatemalans or as Belizeans, our intention would be to move them.”

For the first time, there were reference maps on hand to clarify questions about the proposed Exclusive Economic Zone…

Stuart Leslie (pointing to map)

“What we are trying to apply here is what we call the straight line border system, where we pick a point outside here from the cayes and drop a straight line out here; everything in sight here becomes our internal waters. This is what we are hoping to establish as Belize’s internal waters. From this point out to this little blue line here, the twelve miles here would become our territorial seas. But when you get down here, obviously you don’t have twelve miles. From the twelve mile marker outward will become our Exclusive Economic Zone.”

“This here would be, if you take this point and split it, this side would be Honduras’s waters. This would be Belizean waters. You’re inside Belize’s territorial waters, this is our internal waters here. This line if you continue, this line will continue to this point here, this is Belize’s territorial seas, this is Honduras’s territorial seas. This would be Honduras’ internal waters, this is Guatemala’s. So we have to, according to the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, allow the Guatemalans access right away, we can’t stop them. That is a clear mandate by the UN. What we are proposing to do then is to allow Guatemala this much, which is two thousand nautical miles, one thousand being given by Belize, one thousand being given by Honduras, as their Exclusive Economic Zone.”

“This one thousand miles here that the facilitators are proposing for Belize to hand over to Guatemala, is the exact same as what the Hondurans are proposing to give to them. And the problem, the only thing that we see here that we have to sit down and work out in the treaty…and I shall rephrase myself and not say problem, is the whole idea of migratory fish stocks and other issues in that area. I think this is an area that would be very important to those people who are in the tourism business. How do you manage the movement of the fish stocks in this area? All of this would be to be agreed under the treaty. Belize of course will have jurisdiction over everything in here. We would share jurisdiction with Guatemala here. Guatemala and Honduras will have to decide here, and of course Honduras. Now, when it comes to the movement of fish stocks and depletion of fish stocks and how people move and the fishermen and all that stuff, that all will have to be agreed upon…we will all have to come to an agreement on that with respect to the treaty. We believe that is something that can be fixed.”

…and the Ecological Park respectively.

Stuart Leslie

“The Sapodilla Range will fall within our internal waters. This section will be our territorial seas. This portion of the Ecological Park will be Belizean waters, this is Guatemalan, this is Honduran. This is the Guatemalan coastline, this is the Honduran coastline. This is Honduras’s internal waters, this is their territorial seas, this is their land. Honduras is saying they want all this included, Guatemala is saying they want all this included, Belize is going to include this. Whatever happens in here comes under Belize’s jurisdiction, whatever happens in here comes under Guatemala’s jurisdiction, whatever happens in here comes under Honduras jurisdiction. So one would assume that whatever systems we have in place…immigration systems that we have in place in let’s say Benque, it will be similar situations that we will have in place at the cayes.”

“The only reason why you see this line is to try and mark that we claim this to be our internal waters. But you are asking me why is this little piece in there. Well let me ask you this, why not?”

Audience Member

“If there is a science to it now that you could measure what is your territorial waters, isn’t there a formula?”

Stuart Leslie

“Yes…the formula for territorial waters is twelve miles from the baseline. But remember right now Guatemala claims all of this. According to Guatemala this is theirs anyway.”

Audience Member

I’m not too nervous about us Belizeans and our support of this proposals, more than I’m concerned about theirs, because they could sign it off and still do what they want to do anyways.”

Stuart Leslie

“But they’re doing what they want to do anyways right now.”

Audience Member

“Do you think the people that write the treaty will include conditions for visits like immigration and customs so that it a law that when they come into Hunting Caye, meaning the Belize ecological section, they must have these documents as if coming into the international airport. Cause at present they come and go freely without documents and I think Belize has in the past pretty much ignore that so as not to cause an “international incident”.

Stuart Leslie

“What do you need to go to Melchor? What does a Guatemalan need to need to cross the border? What do you need to go to Chetumal? Under our section it would fall under our immigration laws. The entire area is going to be managed by a group and that is where we must determine, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala, our negotiators must sit down and determine how this area is going to be managed. But it has to be done in conformity with the laws of the country.”

Tonight, Ambassador Leslie will hold another forum on the proposals at the Ladyville Roman Catholic Church at 8:00 p.m. Tomorrow, the team heads to the Dangriga Town Hall for another meeting, also set for 8:00.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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