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Former and current Foreign Ministers square off

Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017. 12:13 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: Former and current Foreign Ministers of Belize, Eamon Courtenay and Wilfred Elrington, have engaged in a public back forth, trading barbs via separate interviews with the media this week discussing a proposed motion to amend the Maritime Areas Act of Belize.

Courtenay, who currently represent the People’s United Party in the Senate, introduced a motion last Wednesday to amend the Maritime Areas Act. The amendment proposes that Belize claim 12 miles of territorial waters between the mouth of the Sarstoon river and the Ranguana Caye. The motion, however, was defeated as Church Senator, Ashley Rocke voted against the motion.

Elrington, in his interview, slammed Courtenay, accusing him of jeopardizing diplomatic relations with Guatemala. Elrington claimed Courtenay’s motion was based solely on political motivation and aspirations to become the next Foreign Minister of Belize, even at the cost of diplomacy.

Courtenay, however, says he has gotten legal advice from three renowned international attorneys familiar with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), who each recommend that Belize amend the Maritime Areas Act to claim the 12 miles of territorial waters before taking the claim to the ICJ.

Elrington and Courtenay also pointed fingers at each other over the shortcomings of the Maritime Act. According to Elrington, PUP Foreign Ministers failed at strengthening Belize’s position as far back as the 1990s. He said that Belize’s relaxing of its claim to 9 miles of territorial waters never had the desired effect.

Courtenay, however, snapped back saying the formal acknowledgement that negotiations had failed came in 2008 under Elrington and that the current Foreign Minister failed to act accordingly to reclaim those 9 miles.

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