Belize and Guatemala signed on Monday the Protocol to the Special Agreement which will allow the governments of both nations to separately hold public consultations with a view to submitting their territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The signing for the amendment of the Agreement the two governments signed in 2008 took place at the Organization of American States headquarters with Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza attending the ceremony, probably his last act in such a post since on Tuesday 26 May Luis Almagro from Uruguay will be taking over as the new OAS chief. Other participants included the foreign ministers of Guatemala, Carlos Raúl Morales, and Belize, Wilfred Elrington.
In his speech, Secretary General Insulza recalled that the role of facilitator and mediator in the Belize-Guatemala that has been played by the OAS is one of the most important tasks of the Organization and one to which we have assigned the highest priority in the General Secretariat.
On his last day in office, the OAS leader said the fact that the ceremony in Guatemala City was his last act at the head of the Organization made him proud, not only because it addresses the main mandate of the Organization - the peaceful solution of disputes - but because it is the only territorial dispute in the region that the OAS has accompanied continuously for more than fifteen years.
The leader of the hemispheric Organization recalled that the dispute between the two countries dates back to colonial times, and that for more than one hundred and fifty years there have been numerous attempts to resolve it. In this regard, he recalled that during one of the moments of greatest tension in the bilateral relationship, both nations decided to appeal to the Código HTML Peace Fund of the OAS, established in 2000 as a financial and technical mechanism to help member states to resolve their disputes peacefully.
Since then, there has been progress in confidence-building measures and the establishment of a civilian peacekeeping mission in the only immigration post between the two countries: the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.
Insulza that when negotiations began it also included Honduras, which shares maritime borders with both countries. During the process, although the parties made significant specific agreements, a consensus was not reached on the maritime issue.
”With this result, OAS recommended that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice, and in 2008 the foreign ministers of Belize and Guatemala took the most significant step in the history of the dispute by signing the special agreement to submit Guatemala's Territorial, Insular, and Maritime Claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a final decision, opening the way for the first time to a fair, definitive, honorable and permanent solution to the dispute, he added.
José Miguel Insulza recalled that the next milestone in the process was the adoption in January 2014 of a roadmap for the strengthening of bilateral relations, as well as an action plan with concrete measures for both Deputy Foreign Ministers, adding that, in December 2014, the foreign ministers of Belize and Guatemala, with my guidance and in the presence of all the Heads of State and Government of Central America meeting in Placencia, Belize, in the framework of the Central American Integration System (SICA), signed thirteen bilateral agreements under the coordination of the OAS for the direct benefit of the people of Guatemala and Belize. These agreements, together with the three agreements on security and intelligence that had been adopted three months before in order to strengthen the mechanisms of cooperation to combat illegal activities, including transnational organized crime, reflect the significant progress achieved in the process led by this Organization.
The achievements reached as a result of the policies implemented cover the areas of defense, culture, migration, transport, social and economic development have been widely recognized by the international community, which has not only welcomed the progress in the negotiation process, but has also significantly increased its support to the Belize-Guatemala sub-fund of Peace Fund, which has allowed for the uninterrupted maintenance of the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone,” said Secretary General Insulza.
Secretary General Insulza also recognized the contributions to the Belize-Guatemala sub-fund of the Peace Fund made by the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Germany, Sweden and the United States, and urged them to continue to support the process until a satisfactory conclusion is reached.