Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2019. 8:17 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize would give anything to know the answers to two questions now that it has resolved the contention over the Maritime Areas Act.
One, exactly what does the Republic of Guatemala want from Belize? And two, will it try to escalate the situation in the deep south now that Belize has re-asserted its full rights over twelve miles of territorial water and the exclusive economic zone into the Bay of Honduras?
The exact nature of the claim will be laid out in the Guatemalan testimonial to the International Court of Justice, due about a year from now.
While it is not exactly secret, Prime Minister Dean Barrow indicated that it is not yet clear that the actual file itself is a matter of public record. At the post-referendum press conference, he indicated that even if it is not and would not be circulated, Belize’s chosen attorneys would still be able to brief the public and the press as a matter of national importance.
After Monday’s meeting of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister said he wanted it clear that the portion of the Act with language about provisions for negotiations was now repealed but that Belize was asserting its rights under international law – “a distinction without a difference.”
But whether that would irk Guatemala is not known at this time, he said: “A lot will depend on the Guatemalans but from our point of view the intention is not to cause difficulties for the Guatemalans. It is just to preserve our position so that when the judges give their decision there can be no prejudice in consequence of the fact that we had not, in fact, gone back and extended to the full extent allowable to us under international law. So that’s the objective, it’s not to cause the Guatemalans any trouble.”
For its part, the Guatemalan Armed Forces have actively taken up position inside the Sarstoon and challenged Belizeans traveling its waters to yield to “the protocol” of Guatemalan sovereignty.
It has also been noted that Guatemala has presidential and legislative elections upcoming and the policies of candidates have not been actively put forward.
But their days may be numbered, as once the Governor General signs the Maritime Areas Act amendment into law, the race to The Hague begins, with one of Belize’s first petitions likely to be an application for provisional measures related to the Sarstoon.
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