PRESS CONFERENCE BY FOREIGN MINISTER OF HONDURAS
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
7 December 1999
At a Headquarters press conference today, the Foreign Minister of Honduras, ROBERTO BERMUDEZ, expressed concern about the response of the Government of Nicaragua to a maritime treaty about to enter into force between Honduras and Colombia.
He said that in 1986 Honduras had concluded negotiations with Colombia, establishing a maritime boundary above Parallel 15, the traditional boundary line between Honduras and Nicaragua. Unfortunately, since 1980 Nicaragua had been projecting its maritime space up to Parallel 17, disrespecting this boundary. Honduras had called upon Nicaragua to settle the issue through negotiations, but for the past 16 years this had not been possible.
In the meantime, he said, Honduras had advanced negotiations with other Caribbean nations. The delimitation with Colombia was important, and Honduras was acting in full accordance with relevant international law, and was ready for direct negotiations, and willing to settle any disputes at the International Court of Justice.
Unfortunately, he continued, the Nicaraguan reaction to the entry into force of the treaty between Honduras and Colombia was of concern. There had been small numbers of troops seen moving towards the Honduran border at three different points. This was an uncalled-for action that could be misinterpreted. The Government of Nicaragua was trying to link a maritime boundary delimitation with the economic integration process, and had been illegally imposing duties on Honduran products in Nicaragua, and levies on cars with Honduran license plates. Just recently it had denied a commercial airline flight over Nicaraguan air space. He said Nicaragua was welcome to bring its case to the World Court, and Honduras would be more than willing to react to any legal action.
To a question about action currently being taken by the Organization of American States (OAS), he said that because of the threat of the use of force, his Government had asked the OAS for a presence in the region. The reaction was positive and the Permanent Council of the OAS was considering sending a delegation to the region to try to keep tensions down.
Asked about his meeting today with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he said the Secretary-General had told him that the United Nations would monitor the situation and consider possibilities for reducing tension in the region. If the presence of OAS monitors failed, “the United Nations would step in”.
Honduras, the Foreign Minister said, wanted to finds a means of solving this juridical question by juridical means. The Government of Nicaragua should not resort to illegal means within the framework of economic integration, and any concerns should be ventilated at the level of the World Court.
Asked about the Archipelago of San Andreas, he said that a 1928 treaty had established it as Colombian territory. The Government of Nicaragua had said they did not recognize that treaty and was seeking a presence in this archipelago. It had asked Honduras to wait until that dispute was settled before allowing its maritime treaty with Colombia to enter into force. The Foreign Minister said the 1928 Treaty was legitimate, and Nicaragua's claim to the archipelago had no legal grounds.
In reply to a question on what exactly he had meant by "a small number of troops" seen approaching the Honduran border, he said that several groups had been detected, one of approximately 60 military personnel. Although the numbers were not large, such deployments were not prudent given the tensions between the two countries.
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