COMMUNIQUÉ – Twenty-Second Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), St. George’s, Grenada, 13-14 May 2019

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The Twenty-Second Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) convened in St. George’s, Grenada on the 13-14 May 2019, under the Chairmanship of the Honourable C. Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada.

The COFCOR was attended by the Honourable E.P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade  of Antigua and Barbuda; the Honourable Darren Allan Henfield, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas, Senator the Honourable Dr. Jerome Walcott, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, the Honourable Wilfred P. Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize; the Honourable Dr. Karen Cummings, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana; Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; the Honourable Mark Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation of  St. Kitts and Nevis; the Honourable Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, Minister with Responsibility for External Affairs of Saint Lucia; the Honourable  Sir Louis Straker, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and Senator the Honourable Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.

His Excellency Felix Gregoire, Ambassador of Dominica to CARICOM, represented Dominica.  Mr. Jude Piquant, Chef de Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worships, represented Haiti. His Excellency Henry Mac Donald, Senior Ambassador represented Suriname. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission was represented by His Excellency Ambassador Anthony Severin, Head of International Relations.

 

Opening Ceremony

Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the Honourable Darren Allan Henfield, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas, outgoing Chair of the COFCOR, and the Honourable C. Peter David, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada and Chair of the COFCOR, addressed the Opening Ceremony.

All speakers underscored the critical role of the Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations as the relevant forum to reflect on regional, hemispheric and international matters, strategize and coordinate regional foreign policy. They all spoke of the necessity to act together in the international arena. The issue of some Member States being unfairly listed as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by the European Union (EU) was also referred to by all speakers.

The speeches can be accessed at www.caricom.org.

 

Situation in Venezuela – CARICOM’s response

Foreign Ministers received an update on CARICOM’s response to the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and expressed deep concern over the ongoing events in that country.  The Council reaffirmed its guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, prohibition of the threat or use of force, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for the constitutional framework and democracy. The Council reiterated CARICOM’s position that the people of Venezuela must be allowed to determine their own future through a meaningful and internal dialogue between the contending parties.

This dialogue must determine how best the crisis can be resolved within the confines of the constitution and the rule of law, whether by referendum, elections or any other agreed mechanism.

To this end, CARICOM will intensify its efforts to engage in dialogue with all parties.

Candidatures

The COFCOR continued to emphasise the importance of CARICOM’s participation in international bodies, including through the pursuit of increased CARICOM representation in these organisations.  In this regard, Ministers considered and endorsed a number of CARICOM candidatures to the United Nations (UN) and hemispheric institutions and considered the requests by Third Countries for CARICOM’s support for their candidatures to these bodies.

 

Bilateral Relations

The COFCOR noted the progress made in the strengthening of relations with several Third States since its last Meeting.  In so doing, it reaffirmed the importance of CARICOM’s relations with its traditional partners and the need to expand the Community’s outreach to develop its relations with non-traditional partners.

In light of the United Kingdom’s (UK) impending departure from the European Union (EU), Ministers welcomed the progress that had been made to secure the Community’s future trade relations with the UK with the signing of the CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement by most Member States.  This will ensure continued preferential access to UK markets and safeguards current and future trade flows between the countries of the Region and the UK.

In respect of the United States of America (USA), the COFCOR reviewed the CARICOM-US relationship and underscored the need for the Community to strategically consider its long-term engagement with the US.

The COFCOR stressed the need for intensifying contacts with representatives of both Houses of the US Congress.  Ministers also discussed the need for designing a policy to mobilise the CARICOM diaspora in the US in support of the Community’s interest.

The COFCOR also welcomed the hosting by Jamaica of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Conference in February 2020.

In reviewing CARICOM-Cuba relations and the preparations for the Sixth CARICOM-Cuba Ministerial Meeting to be held in Guyana on 14 June 2019, the Council underscored the importance of the longstanding relationship with Cuba which is characterised by technical cooperation, trade and political relations, and mutual support for each other in multilateral fora.  In light of the recent measures announced by the United States, the COFCOR agreed to issue the attached statement. They reiterated the Community’s firm support for the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US against Cuba.

Foreign Ministers also noted the interest of Colombia to renew relations with the Community and agreed to participate in the inaugural CARICOM-Colombia Ministerial Meeting to be held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 29 June 2019.

 

Multilateral Issues

 

25th Anniversary of the International Seabed Authority

CARICOM Foreign Ministers were informed that 16 November 2019 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the entry into force of the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by Jamaica which is the country in which the Secretariat of the ISA is headquartered. The COFCOR noted the announcement that the Secretariat of the ISA and the Government of Jamaica will be commemorating this milestone Anniversary with a number of activities throughout the year, including a Special Commemorative Meeting during the Assembly on 25 July 2019 to mark the historic contribution of the Convention to global ocean governance. The COFCOR encouraged the highest level of participation of CARICOM Member States at the 25th Session in July and to support the planned activities, including the international conference on legal, scientific and economic aspects of the deep sea bed scheduled for the 14-16 November 2019.

In relation to the UN, CARICOM Foreign Ministers mandated the Community’s negotiators, for the conservation and sustainable use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) sessions, to continue their advocacy on this important regional priority area. This includes continuing to urge the President of the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) to prepare a draft treaty text for review and finalisation by the Third Session of the IGC which will be convened from 19 to 30 August 2019 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

CARICOM Foreign Ministers noted the progress made by regional negotiators to strengthen the Community’s engagement with the IGC, and commended the leadership of Barbados and Belize in this regard. They look forward to the regional workshop to be held in Barbados on 16-18 July 2019, and the relevant assistance to CARICOM negotiators in the elaboration of key issues relating to institutional arrangements and financial mechanisms.

Foreign Ministers agreed to continue to advance the Community’s established positions in relation to the issues of the reform of the UN Security Council.

The COFCOR acknowledged that the High-level Mid-term Review of the SAMOA Pathway is one of several important high-level meetings scheduled this year in the margins of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  The Ministers agreed to utilise the High-Level Week in New York during September 2019 to highlight the key issues and opportunities for Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) such as those in the Community.

CARICOM Foreign Ministers received the Final Report of the CARICOM Technical Working Group on the Community for Latin American and Caribbean States (TWG-CELAC) and agreed to consider its recommendations.

The COFCOR noted that Suriname, in its capacity as Co-President of the CELAC-EU Anti-Drug Mechanism in Brussels, will be hosting the “VI COPOLAD II Annual Conference” during the period 16-17 June 2019 and the “XXI High Level Meeting of the CELAC-EU Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs” during the period 20-21 June 2019 in Paramaribo, Suriname.

In considering that the High Level Meeting of the CELAC-EU Coordination and Cooperation Mechanism on Drugs will be co-chaired by Suriname for CELAC and Romania for the EU and is expected to attract about 150 participants from the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe to jointly discuss initiatives and cooperation measures to tackle the fight against illegal drugs, including drug trafficking and related crime, the COFCOR also encouraged the highest level of participation in this meeting.

The COFCOR received an update on the issues of strategic importance to the Community before the Organisation of American States (OAS). Ministers reiterated their commitment to the work of the hemispheric body and look forward to discussions to be held at the forthcoming Forty-Ninth Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly on 26-28 June 2019 in Medellin, Colombia, under the theme, “Innovating to Strengthen Hemispheric Multilateralism”.

CARICOM Foreign Ministers received a summary report of the Eighth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) held in Nicaragua on 29 March 2019, under the theme, “Uniting efforts in the Caribbean to face Climate Change”.  They welcomed Barbados’ appointment as Chair of the ACS Ministerial Council and pledged the Community’s support during its period of Chairmanship, during the period 2019-2020.

The Council agreed that the Community should mark the 25th Anniversary of the ACS with appropriate events. Ministers proposed the convening of a High-level Meeting among CARICOM, SICA and the ACS.

The COFCOR considered the negotiation towards a Successor Agreement to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. Ministers acknowledged the preparations at the level of CARIFORUM for participating in the Post-Cotonou negotiations and that the negotiations were taking place in a changed and challenging environment. The COFCOR welcomed the progress that had been made in key areas while also recognising that substantial work remained to be undertaken in a number of substantive areas.

 

Climate Change

The COFCOR reaffirmed the significant contribution of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to the Climate Change negotiations. The COFCOR expressed their continued support for Belize as the current Chair of AOSIS and pledged its support to the incoming Chair of AOSIS, Antigua and Barbuda. The COFCOR encouraged the highest level of participation in the 25th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and meetings of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies to be held in Chile during the period, 2-13 December, with the pre-sessional period being on the dates 26 November-1 December 2019.

The COFCOR underscored the significance of Climate Financing mechanisms and in this regard welcomes the convening of 2019 Climate Action Summit and supports the objectives of the initiatives.

The Council expressed its support for the Government of Jamaica which has been entrusted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to host the Seventh Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas in the Caribbean in July 2020. Mindful of hurricane events in 2017 which threatened the economic viability of several regional territories, the 7th Regional Platform will focus on economic resilience and strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change and natural hazards in key economic sectors.

 

Blacklisting

The Council took note of the strategies put in place to address the issue of blacklisting. This included calling on CARICOM Ambassadors in Brussels and New York to engage third countries on this critical issue. Ministers viewed the EU’s approach to “tax good governance” as inappropriate and recall that the relevant agency to deal with these matters is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum for Harmful Tax Practices which is inclusive in allowing other Member States to be present and to be consulted. In that regard they called on the EU to adopt a more collaborative approach.

 

Interactions with Representatives of Third States

Foreign Ministers welcomed Her Excellency Helen McEntee, Minister of State for European Affairs of the Republic of Ireland, and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest with a view to enhancing their bilateral cooperation and relationship.

The Minister expressed her country’s commitment to battling climate change and their solidarity with the Region on this issue and other areas of interest to SIDS.

The COFCOR appreciated Ireland’s understanding of the economic and environmental vulnerabilities of the Community. The Council urged that Ireland as a member of the OECD should advocate for a change in the international policy of graduating SIDS that are middle income countries out of access to concessional development financing.

The COFCOR also sought the support of Ireland in the councils of the EU with respect to the continued unfair listing of some of our Member States as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.

The Ministers welcomed the interest by Ireland to join the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

 

Border Issues

 

  • Belize-Guatemala Dispute

 

The COFCOR received an update on the most recent developments between Belize and Guatemala.

The COFCOR congratulated Belize on the successful holding of its referendum on 8 May 2019 in accordance with the Special Agreement to Submit Guatemala’s Claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). They welcomed the result of the referendum which opens the way to finally and definitively resolve the dispute arising from Guatemala’s claim at the ICJ in accordance with the Special Agreement.

The COFCOR reiterated its concern that the undertaking by both countries and the OAS, to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of cooperation for the Sarstoon River, remains outstanding. The Ministers called for both countries and the OAS to redouble their efforts in this respect.

The COFCOR expressed support for the continuous and critical role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone. COFCOR emphasised their unflinching support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.

 

  • Guyana-Venezuela Controversy

 

The Foreign Ministers received an update on the most recent developments between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The Foreign Ministers recalled with emphasis that on 27 February 2019, the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at their 30th Inter-Sessional Conference in St. Kitts and Nevis “expressed support for the judicial process underway which was intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long standing controversy and which was in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and the decision of the Secretary- General of the United Nations under the Geneva Agreement of 1966” and “reiterated their firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana”.

The Foreign Ministers noted with regret that Venezuela had failed to submit to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) a Counter-Memorial on the Jurisdiction of the Court by 18 April 2019 as required by the Court, and has reiterated to the Court “the decision of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela not to participate in the written procedure”.

The Foreign Ministers emphasised that the proceedings of the ICJ were in the interest of an early resolution of the issues before it, and of regional peace and security – purposes to which they were all committed.

The Foreign Ministers reiterated the Community’s firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

 

“Leveraging the Community’s Voice in an Era of Challenges and Disorder”

Foreign Ministers, at their Retreat session, received the presentation by the Secretariat on the theme, ‘’Leveraging the Community’s Voice in an Era of Challenges and Disorder”.  They discussed the increased challenges for small states caused by a fast-changing international environment.  They looked at ways and means to promote and protect the Community’s interests in this context.  Ministers re-emphasised the importance for the Region to speak with one voice through the coordination of foreign policy, in so far as practicable, and the need to find new and more effective ways to strengthen the existing coordination mechanism.

 

Appreciation

The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Grenada for the warm hospitality, excellent arrangements and courtesies extended which greatly facilitated the fruitful deliberations of the Twenty-Second Meeting of the COFCOR.  They looked forward to the convening of the Twenty-Third Meeting of the COFCOR in Haiti in 2020.

 

*****

14 May 2019

 

STATEMENT ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW MEASURES

BY THE US GOVERNMENT AGAINST CUBA

 

 

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is concerned by the new measures under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act announced by the Government of the United States of America which would strengthen the US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba. The Community denounces the application of laws and measures of an extra-territorial nature that are contrary to international law.

 

The Caribbean Community notes with the greatest concern that the application of these new measures will also have a greater adverse impact on the socio-economic development of Cuba and the well-being of the Cuban People.  The Community reiterates its endorsement of the principles of international law as well as its strongly-held view that economic development and stability in the region contribute to international peace and security.

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