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May 6, 2002

British diplomat comes to look and listen

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Back in the days before independence, it was known as the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute, a difference of opinion in which Belize was vitally interested, but officially a bystander. All that changed with Independence in 1981, and with it went Great Britain’s role as a major protagonist in the drama. But as the curtain is about to rise on what may be the final act of the Guatemalan Claim, the British are being recast in the role of financial angel. Today, U.K. Parliamentary Undersecretary of State Denis MacShane met with Belizean leaders before heading to Guatemala for a chat with that country’s administration. Before departing, he spoke to News 5′s Stewart Krohn.

Denis MacShane, U.K. Undersecretary of State

“I’m here to talk to friends in Belize, and Britain has got a very good, warm relationship with Belize, which will continue into the future. And them I’m going onto Guatemala to listen, to report back the Prime Minister Tony Blair. There are facilitators in place, this is a dispute as you rightly say and the Belizean and the Guatemalan people have to decide ultimately in a referendum. But the international community would like to see the pebble in the shoe that exists between the two countries removed. So the message from the region is that with their moving towards political stability, we can get investment, get tourism and get the growth going again in both countries.”

Stewart Krohn

“There are many people saying that to get the pebble out of the shoe is going to take a significant sum of money and it is understood that because of its historic role, Britain will be asked to contribute in large extent to a multinational development fund. You prepared to give us some hint as to how much Britain might be willing to contribute?”

Denis MacShane

“I think that’s to put the cart a long way before the horse. One needs a political settlement here and that requires both parties and the facilitators to come to an agreement. And it may not be possible, there are deep passions involved, deep ideas about national sovereignty and territory, and one has to be very, very realistic. But the whole of the international community, not just Britain, the United States, the European Union, the other big world investors, would like this part of Central American to send out signals of peace, of coming together in order to get the investment coming in, the trade package coming in, so we’re working hard on that. But of course that all depends on whether the facilitators and ultimately the leadership and finally the people… this is the important thing, Guatemalan people who have been brought up to believe their position, the Belizean people who’ve been brought up strongly to hold dear to there position, have got to agree themselves on whatever’s on it–and I don’t know what it will be–is acceptable. But if they can agree and I hope that’s possible, I think that will be a terrific signal to send to the rest of the world.”

The size and exact nature of the proposed bi-national development fund has not been made public and those close to the negotiations tell News 5 that it is still very much a work in progress.

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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