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May 10, 2019

There’s Still No Sarstoon Protocol on the Immediate Horizon

A Sarstoon Protocol has been on the books since a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey following a meeting between Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington and the then Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales. In the meantime, the GAF has been exercising authority in the Sarstoon.  At the press conference, the Prime Minister was asked if there have been any new developments on the diplomatic front.  According to PM Barrow, there’s nothing new by way of an update, suffice to say that the matter was discussed during the visit of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales two years ago.  Barrow goes on to say that the United States Southern Command, which is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations and security cooperation for Central and South America, has attempted on several occasions to get Belize and Guatemala to agree on a compromise where traffic along the Sarstoon River is concerned.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“There is no real update.  It takes two to tango.  We have in fact tried to get a protocol.  I reported that on the last occasion when President Morales was in Belize for the SICA meeting we had talked about that and I had put it to him that really there was an absolute necessity to get this done.  The O.A.S., two years ago, at the time of that meeting in Turkey had mandated the two sides to come to some understanding and have it written down in the form of a protocol.  The president said to me that such a protocol would have to go to congress and he was certain that congress would not approve it.  He thought rather that we should try to come to some informal arrangement and we have been working on that ever since.  I don’t want to say too much because unless and until we actually get the understanding, the less said the better.  Tomorrow we have the visit of the head of SouthCom, the U.S. Southern Command.  I can tell you that South Com has always been at pains to try to get the two militaries to agree some sort of, what I might call, modus Vivendi, rules of conduct as it were for the river and how they would treat with each other and how they would treat with civilians going upriver.  We will certainly have a chance tomorrow to talk to the South Com head about that. There are a couple of South Com meetings in the next couple of weeks at which the heads of the two militaries, Belize and Guatemala, will be present and again I would imagine that the opportunity will be taken to try and progress matters.  That’s as far as things have gone.”


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