HC Deb 16 October 2002 vol 390 cc853-4W
Mr. Drew

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress to resolve the territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize. [74950]

Mr. MacShane

The Organization of American States (OAS) concluded its two year process to help the Governments of Guatemala and Belize settle their territorial dispute on 30 September. Detailed proposals drawn up by independent Facilitators appointed by both Governments were presented to the Governments on 16 September, provide the basis for a fair and honourable settlement to this long-standing dispute. We hope both Governments will now seize this historic opportunity.

The Facilitators have recommended some adjustment to the land border, and proposed new maritime limits giving Guatemala an Economic Exclusion Zone and Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Honduras of some 2000 square nautical miles. The Governments of Belize and Honduras have each agreed to contribute 1000 square nautical miles to this zone.

The Facilitators have also recommended the establishment of a tri-national ecological park covering coastal, insular and maritime areas of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and a substantial Development Trust Fund. Details can be found on the Belize Government's website www.belize.gov.bz/.

At a ceremony in Washington on 30 September marking the end of the facilitation process, Dr. MacShane spoke of the UK's full support for the OAS process. He welcomed the proposals highlighting the potential for investment and economic growth that will result if the referendums that are now due to be held simultaneously in both countries are successful.

HMG believes that the Facilitators have worked patiently and meticulously to produce proposals that are fair and honourable to the Governments of Guatemala and Belize. They represent the best chance yet of settling the dispute. Settlement would also have a global significance, demonstrating that with good will and determination even the most intractable problems can be resolved by negotiation. A settlement would open a new chapter of peace and harmony between the two countries and reduce the risk of potential conflict along the border.

We urge the Governments and civil society of both countries to enter into constructive debate on what a settlement would mean to their populace before putting the proposals to referendums.

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