Belize, Guatemala Foreign Ministers Meet In the Middle

Thursday morning, Belize's Foreign Minister, Eamon Courtenay, held his first bilateral meeting with his Guatemalan counterpart, Pedro Brolo Vila. That meeting happened at the OAS adjacency zone office at the Benque Viejo border.

A joint press release says, quote, "The two foreign ministers exchanged updates in the efforts to strengthen bilateral relations between Belize and Guatemala and agreed to reactivate the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission." End quote.

After all the official talks were completed, the 2 foreign ministers went down to take a look at the border marker between the two countries that's right down the hill from the Adjacency Zone office.

This was their first meeting since their respective governments were elected to office. The two foreign ministers are hoping to deepen cooperation between these two neighboring states through the use of several signed agreements that have not been fully activated.

Since Guatemala's longstanding territorial claim over Belize is going to the International Court of Justice for a final resolution, the officials from both countries think that the wisest course of action is to improve bilateral cooperation for mutual benefits. But, as viewers are aware, there have been tense moments in the past that have affected diplomatic relations between both countries. It was in that context that our news team took a closer look at yesterday's talks. Daniel Ortiz reports:

The meeting included a short visit to the marker at Garbutt's Falls, which is right down the hill from the Adjacency Zone Office.

Both countries intend to strengthen the commercial and economic relations through the use of the 2009 Belize Guatemala Partial Scope Trade Agreement, and a reactivation of the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission.

Yesterday, the Belizean press asked for further details on what changes take effect after the bilateral meeting, here's what Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay had to say:

Hon. Eamon Courtenay - Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The Commission was not deactivated. I wouldn't say that. I just believe that it has not been moving as aggressively as we would like. Minister Brolo and I have committed to do is to provide whatever resources are necessary, and having our officials continue to work assiduously and diligently on the issues. In 2014, Belize and Guatemala signed 13 Agreements. 4 are currently under implementation, and it is our instructions to our officials that they must get moving on all. There are some formalities that are required on a few of them. Those are going to be completed. In addition to [that], we agreed that beyond the 13 agreements, other issues that may become important from time to time should be looked at by the Joint Commission."

"We also agreed that the administrative commission, which functions under the partial scope agreement, will also be re-invigorated. That commission had held meetings and had set up different desks and tables for officials to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary, business facilitation, etc. And, we have committed to having those entities start their work and work diligently, and most importantly, to facilitating a meeting with the private sector. We have put on the table, an increase in the number of products that Belize wants to be covered by the partial scope agreement, and Guatemala undertook to review them and to take them back to Capitol for a review. And I look forward to our officials getting together to deal with those issues. We also proposed to Guatemala the need to have some entity closer to Belize than Guatemala City to facilitate the issuance of permits and things like that. And the response from Minister Brolo was very positive in that regard, and again, we are looking forward to implementation."

The two sides have thanked the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone for hosting these talks.

Channel 7