Disputes are inevitable in the affairs of nations, and particularly so with neighbors. Countries fall out over territorial claims, trade, immigration, and even pollution spreading across the frontier from one nation to the other. Some conflicts are resolved quickly, others take time to reconcile, and still others can fester for years. Then there's the border dispute between Belize and Guatemala, which began in the 19th century and still rankles in the 21st.
Border lands between the two Central American nations have been contested since colonial times, when Guatemala asserted claims to all of Belize on grounds it inherited Spain’s rights to the area when it became independent. Belize, then a British colony, rejected the claims despite Guatemala’s occasional threats of force. The exact border between the two neighbors remains in dispute to this day. Resolution, however, is now in sight, not through confrontation, but cooperation.
The 2 nations signed an agreement on December 8 to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, after holding national votes on the question. The initiative was hammered out with the help of the Organization of American States, the OAS.
At a time when nations like Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Russia and Georgia have resorted to armed conflict to resolve border disputes, Belize and Guatemala are providing a positive example of conflict resolution. The United States congratulates the 2 countries and their leaders for the effort, which could lead to new economic and political cooperation, prosperity and development for both. As a friend of Belize and Guatemala at the OAS, the U.S. has assisted to facilitate dialogue between the 2 countries, and has supported efforts by the OAS to peacefully resettle communities located on disputed territory on the border.