Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm in the north, 3 nm in the south; note - from the mouth of the Sarstoon River to Ranguana Cay, Belize's territorial sea is 3 nm; according to Belize's Maritime Areas Act, 1992, the purpose of this limitation is to provide a framework for negotiating a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala (source CIA factbook-1999)
The Maritime Areas Act explicitly states that the purpose of maintaining the three mile territorial sea in the
aforesaid area is "to provide a framework for the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with
the Republic of Guatemala". This is in the context of Guatemala's recognition, on 5 September 1991, of the
independent State of Belize - an unconditional and irrevocable act by which Guatemala acknowledged Belize's
frontiers as defined in our Constitution. By necessary implication, Guatemala also agreed to respect the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Belize in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
The Belize Constitution, however, does not define the limits of Belize's territorial sea; this is left for the
legislature to enact. It had not done so yet, however, because of the fact that if Belize were to claim all the territorial
seas it has a right to in the south, it would require Guatemala to pass through Belize's territorial seas to get to the
high seas, whereas it has been accustomed to doing so without entering Belize's traditional three-mile territorial sea.
Belize has long since declared its willingness to negotiate an agreement to accord Guatemala such territorial seas as
are necessary to provide her with unimpeded access to the high seas, and it refrained from defining its territorial sea
pending an agreement.
After Guatemala took the bold move of recognizing Belize, however, the National Assembly of Belize, as an
act of good faith indicating its willingness to pursue such negotiations to a successful conclusion, passed the
Maritime Areas Act. It is made clear, however, that the three mile limit in the area indicated is a temporary measure
that merely restricts the negotiations to that area, and the Act explicitly states that any agreement emerging from the
negotiations must first be put to a referendum in Belize.