Full transcript of Hon. Gaspar Vega's address at the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States.

A warm and resounding thank you President Raúl Castro Ruz...

It would be remiss of me not to note the tremendous warmth and good will that has been extended by you personally, your Government and the Cuban people on the occasion of this 7th ACS Summit.

Secretary General Ambassador Alfonso Múnera, Distinguished Heads of State, Ministers, Delegates, All.

I believe gratitude is also in order for the outgoing Chairman – not only was the business of our organization conducted with finesse, but with a horizon of a better positioned ACS for the future.

Belize of course applauds the election of Ambassador June Soomer to the position of Secretary General, and as was mentioned by Foreign Minister Elrington when he introduced her yesterday, we have no doubts that she will continue the tradition of excellence set by our present Secretary General Múnera. We believe that Dr. Sooner’s invaluable experience in Caricom, will allow us, within the ACS, to capitalize on regional strengths, whilst working within the framework of a rejuvenated and repositioned association.

Mr. Chairman, the people of Belize believe in this great enterprise called the Association of Caribbean States. We believe in it – not only because we are cognizant in fora like these, the small – like many of us – become stronger and gain a true place among neighbours, trading partners, and among brethren.

But we believe in the ACS because we are constantly reminded that despite technology and transportation making the world a smaller place, thereby underscoring the importance of states and friendships in distant parts of the world - that climate change, economic risks such as the correspondent banking situation across the region – which directly affects our development prospects, security and health risks - including Zika among other concerns, remind us that stability and prosperity are inherently a local concern.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

The ACS is our neighbourhood, today we sit at a table with family. Families will have differences, but the blood, history and common interests, and our shared desire to make the lives of our people better form an unshakeable glue at the very foundation of this family we so dearly refer to as the Association of Caribbean States.

It is in this spirit, Mr. Chairman, that Belize now finds it necessary to call on our brothers and sisters in the region to be aware that it is being seriously exercised at this time by the recent and very troubling shift in the foreign policy of our neighbour and closest trading partner – Guatemala; this is in relation to the centuries old territorial dispute which we inherited from Colonial days.

The shift in foreign policy manifests itself in the potentially dangerous practices by armed Guatemalan military personnel to prevent Belizean citizens – military and civilian – from their traditional free and unimpeded ingress and egress of the Sarstoon River – the mid-channel of which constitutes the southern boundary of my country.

This boundary was agreed upon in the Boundary Convention of 1859 between Great Britain and the Republic of Guatemala. This right of ingress and egress has been exercised without let or hindrance from the mid-19th Century.

Indeed, the Belize military routinely utilise said river for

- the changing of the troops

- to re-provision our southern-most military base, which to date is only accessible by river

- our fisherfolk in the South, among others, also utilise the river as well to earn their living

This new posture on the part of our neighbour Guatemala poses a grave threat to the preservation of our peaceful co-existence and it is a threat to stability in our hemisphere.

It constitutes a clear and existential threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is also in direct contravention of our commitment in Paragraph 2 of CELAC’s Proclamation of January 29th, 2014, which articulates “our permanent commitment to solve dispute through peaceful means with the aim of uprooting forever threat or the use of force”.

Under these circumstances, and given the seriousness of the situation, Belize calls upon the members of this august organization

• to join with the countries of the ACP and the Commonwealth in urging both parties to fully abide by their agreement on the framework of Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures of 2005, which commits both countries to refrain from the threat or use of force and lays out a verification process to address border incidents

• to encourage the leaders of both countries to de-escalate the ongoing high levels of tensions and to return focus to building bilateral confidence to establish Confidence Building Measures for the Sarstoon River that forms the southern boundary of Belize

• to hold the required national referenda to submit Guatemala’s claim to the International Court of Justice for a final resolution in accordance with the Special Agreement in 2008 between both parties.

Always in the spirit of peace and cooperation,

I thank you Mr. Chairman.