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#451776 - 11/23/12 04:36 PM British Minister discusses Belize-Guat Relations
Marty Online   happy

BRITISH MINISTER DISCUSSES BELIZE-GUAT RELATIONS AND SECURITY

Afghanistan-based forces to be sent into Belize jungles

UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, arrived in Belize for a two-day visit with Belizean officials during which security is a top issue on their agenda.

Speaking with Amandala at a reception held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel on Thursday night, Swire said that this is his first visit to a Commonwealth country since he took office about 12 weeks ago, and this makes his trip to Belize particularly momentous.

The intent, he said, is to “show that we care about Belize.” Although there has been no ministerial visit for over 4 years, he pointed to the visit of Prince Harry to Belize, as a part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, and the visit of a top civil servant in the UK foreign office earlier this year.

However, what is holding the attention of Minister Swire and other leaders today is that there is a lot of work to be done regionally and internationally to counter the increasingly violent narcotics trade.

The minister additionally announced that the UK has just applied to become an extraterritorial observer in SICA – the Central American Integration System. The reason for wanting to become a part of the organization, Swire said, is not just because they want to help but also because a lot of the drugs that pass through the region end up in the UK, causing terrible damage to the fabric of the society there, he said.

The UK, said Swire, has an anti-narcotics agency dubbed SOCA – the Serious Organized Crime Agency, and they are working with countries in Latin America to look at best practices in establishing peace.

A press release from the British High Commission in Belize said that security is expected to play a major part of the discussions during the visit, as well as Belize-Guatemala relations.

Minister Swire told Amandala that the deaths of three Guatemalans, accused of incursions into Belize, in the last months is “very concerning to us,” “a real worry.”

The UK believes the way to resolve the dispute, said Swire, is for the referendum on taking the claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to be positive and for the matter to go to court, with both Belize and Guatemala committing to abide by the ruling of the ICJ, which, he said, will hopefully end this dispute once and for all.

He said that once the dispute is behind the countries, they can focus on working together on countering the narcotics trade.

We told the minister that there are some Belizeans who say that it is the British who left Belize with this problem and that Guatemala should settle its issues with the British—not with Belize.

Swire said that this is a historical argument, but the issue is that Guatemala never ratified the original agreement with Britain.

We live in 2012 and the only ones that can solve the problem, he said, are Guatemala and Belize – not the UK, he insisted.

British High Commissioner Pat Ashworth told Amandala that when the Belize office heard that Minister Swire was going to open a new embassy in Salvador, after their mission there was closed 9 years ago, he grabbed him to come to Belize.

He said that they wanted to talk about the Belize-Guatemala situation, the 2013 ICJ referendum, the border and Belize’s internal situation with crime and gangs.

First off, Swire met with officials of the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) as well as the Belize Defence Force. He also met Mary Vasquez, head of RESTORE Belize, and tomorrow, Friday, he is due to meet with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who also heads the National Security Council.

We asked what further security assistance the UK would provide for Belize; however, Ashworth said that he thinks there is enough equipment available, but they (the UK) can provide expertise.

The Commissioner said that they had told the Government of Belize about a year ago that they could look at augmenting BATSUB operations, which had been scaled back. Both Swire and Ashworth spoke of the UK drawing down on Afghanistan forces and the plan to send them into Belize’s jungles, since they will need a training ground.

Amandala


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#452224 - 11/29/12 02:41 PM Re: British Minister discusses Belize-Guat Relations [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

European Union offers $5 Million for referendum

Ban Ki-moon

A referendum on whether or not to elevate to the International Court of Justice, Guatemala’s claim to fifty percent of Belize’s territory has been set for October 2013 when Belizeans as well as Guatemalans will be asked to vote Yes or No. According to the Referendum Act, sixty percent of the one hundred and eighty thousand registered voters will have to participate for the referendum to be valid in Belize, but in Guatemala, only a simple majority is required. A public awareness campaign on the referendum will kick off in January but this morning, the United Nations weighed in on the matter. A statement attributed to its Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, says that (quote) “The Secretary-General salutes the progress made by Belize and Guatemala under the auspices of the Organization of American States to resolve their longstanding territorial dispute. He welcomes their decision to hold simultaneous referenda on October sixth 2013 to consult their populations on referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice. Belize and Guatemala have requested financial support from the international community for the referenda and possible eventual legal proceedings. The Secretary-General believes that this process is in line with the objective of pacific settlement of disputes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and merits international support.” (unquote)

In a related development, Guatemala’s El Periodico is reporting that the European Union will be providing two million Euros, approximately five million Belize dollars, to the process. The money, according to the newspaper, will be deposited with the OAS. The agreement is that both Belize and Guatemala will share the funds raised. Belize requires about ten million Belize dollars while Guatemala says it requires forty-six million US dollars for the referendum.

Channel 5


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