By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize says tension with Guatemala over the Sarstoon and Belize’s insistence on its sovereignty rights in accordance with the 1859 Treaty Demarcation of the river, is at an all-time high.
This follows a confrontation on Saturday evening, March 12, on the river between members of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) and their Guatemalan counterparts.
A press release issued this afternoon says that armed forces approached the Forward Operating Base where Belizean forces were stationed and insisted that our troops should not be at the Sarstoon.
Government says the Guatemalans did not attempt to enter Belizean land, though exact details of the location of the incident have not been provided. In any event, the Guatemalans withdrew after BDF Commander, Brigadier General David Jones contacted his counterpart in Guatemala and Prime Minister Dean Barrow had sent a message to President Jimmy Morales.
The Government also confirms that talks are to take place in Washington on Tuesday, March 15th, between the two sides under the auspices of the OAS, and in the meantime Belize has informed key members of the international community, including the US and the UK, of the extremely critical situation.
A strongly worded protest note is being sent to Guatemala by the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister has convened a special meeting of the National Security Council for Monday, March 14th to further deal with the matter.
The release notes and we have confirmed that the Belize delegation to the Washington talks includes Assad Shoman, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador of Belize, as the representative of the Opposition, and that the Prime Minister has personally briefed Opposition Leader John Briceno on the Sarstoon incident.
We understand that the Guatemalans cited a gentleman’s agreement between the countries dating to 2007 in asking that the BDF ask their permission to traverse the Sarstoon River; however, Belizean authorities say the agreement never stipulated anything about permission, only about joint patrols.
We understand as well that the Guatemalans wanted to know why they were not informed about the changeover at the Cadenas post that took place on Friday.
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