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COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE EIGHTH MEETING OF THE COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS (COFCOR), 1-2 JUNE 2005, FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA, THE BAHAMAS


Posted in: Communiques | 03 June 2005 | Release Ref #: 123/2005 | 658

    The Eighth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) was held in Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas, on 1-2 June 2005. The Ministers attending were: Dr the Hon. Edmund Mansoor, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda; Hon Frederick A Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service, The Bahamas; Hon. Dame Billie Miller, D.A, B.C.H, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Barbados; Hon. Assad Shoman, Minister of National Development, Belize; Senator the Hon Charles Savarin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Labour and the Public Service, Dominica; Hon. Elvin Nimrod, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Grenada; Hon. S. R. Insanally, O.R, C.C.H, M.P, Minister of Foreign Affairs ,Guyana; Senator the Hon. Delano Franklyn, Minster of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Jamaica; Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Industry and Commerce, St. Kitts and Nevis; Senator the Hon. Petrus Compton, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation, Saint Lucia; Hon. Mike Browne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Hon. Maria Levens, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname; Senator the Hon. Knowlson Gift, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.

    OPENING CEREMONY

    In his Opening Remarks the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), His Excellency Edwin W. Carrington, noted that the Council was meeting in The Bahamas for its Eighth Session at a time of major regional, hemispheric and global developments. Within the Community, progress towards the establishment of the Single Market and Economy continues apace. At the hemispheric level, the Organisation of American States (OAS) had elected a new Secretary General and its General Assembly will shortly convene in Fort Lauderdale. The Secretary General expressed the hope that one outcome of the General Assembly would be the election of the CARICOM candidate to the position of Assistant Secretary-General. The Secretary- General also alluded to the critical role the COFCOR will have to play in the discussions on the reform of the United Nations (UN). He concluded with an overview of the initiatives which the Community was taking to enhance its relations with traditional and nontraditional partners and with other regional groupings. In her address, the outgoing Chairman, Dame Billie Miller, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, said that in reviewing events of the past year, it is clear that conflict resolution, or perhaps "irresolution", the challenge of a new interpretation of security and of reform in the international management of security, have been, and indeed continue to be, key foreign policy issues before the Region and the international community as well.

    She outlined the Region's efforts to respond to the actions of various stakeholders in the Haitian crisis and noted that progress could only be achieved through dialogue, sustained contact between all parties, negotiation and mediation. She also noted that use of the CARICOM Task Force had been an indispensable tool in keeping the channels of communication open and in working towards the stated commitment of CARICOM to assist the people of Haiti.

    The Minister concluded by acknowledging that having a coordinated position enabled the Region to move forward together in its engagement with the international community. She asserted that beyond the internal impetus for concerted action, external push factors also required the Region to continue to function jointly as an actor on the world stage as far as it is feasible to do so.

    The Chairman of COFCOR, Hon Frederick Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service of The Bahamas, in his feature address said that he accepted the chairmanship of the COFCOR against the background of a 22-year formal commitment by The Bahamas to CARICOM. He said that The Bahamas was committed to CARICOM, save and except that it is unable to participate in the arrangements for the Single Market and Economy. He noted that the Meeting was taking place against the backdrop of a changing global landscape of international political, economic and social challenges that will impact the lives of the people of CARICOM in the years to come. He called for the definition and articulation of common, or at the very least, coordinated responses as it was important for the Region to be seen as acting as a "community".

    He also expressed the view that the Community should also seek to develop and strengthen relations with Africa and selected Asian countries. He suggested that the Region should use all mechanisms at its disposal such as Joint Commissions and outreach at the multilateral level to develop strategic alliances. He drew attention to the issues related to security especially within the context of the reform of the UN Security Council, and the Caribbean Sea which were of priority to this Meeting. He noted that a most compelling issue however was the return of Haiti to the Councils of CARICOM. He stressed the need for free and fair elections and for all citizens of Haiti to be allowed to participate in its political processes free from arbitrary arrest or concerns of political violence and discrimination.

    THE ORGANISATION OF AMERICAN STATES

    Ministers noted that the XXXV Meeting of the OAS which would take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 5-7 June, would afford the countries of the hemisphere an opportunity to discuss issues of particular relevance to their states.

    They noted that the Assembly would be guided by the newly appointed Secretary-General, Ignacius José Miguel Insulza, and noted in this regard the enhanced role that the Secretary-General envisioned for the OAS in strengthening democracy and good governance in the hemisphere, and in promoting within that Organisation the enhancement of economic, social and cultural conditions for the peoples of the Americas. Ministers stressed the need for the OAS to continue to define security from a multi-faceted approach which would include, inter alia, poverty and HIV/AIDS. They also recognised the need to promote the delivery of technical cooperation along a programmatic theme with modules rather than individual projects.

    Ministers reviewed the Draft Declaration of Florida prepared by the USA which was expected to be adopted at the XXXV Meeting of the General Assembly. Ministers indicated their intention to actively participate in the discussions at the Meeting on this issue.

    ASSOCIATION OF CARIBBEAN STATES (ACS)

    Ministers reviewed preparation for the Fourth Summit of the Association of Caribbean States which is scheduled to be held in Panama City, Panama, from 28-29 July 2005 the theme of which is "The ACS: Realising Its Vision".

    Ministers emphasised the continued geo-political importance of an ACS with a shared vision and purpose, and as a forum for consultation, cooperation and coordination among the countries of the wider Caribbean.

    Ministers expressed the hope that the Summit would attract the participation of all Heads of Government of the ACS in order that the vision for the ACS for the next five to ten years may be adopted at the highest political level.

    FOURTH SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

    Ministers noted preparations to date for the Fourth Summit of the Americas to be held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005. They agreed that the Region would continue its coordinated approach to the Summit.

    UNITED NATIONS

    Ministers noted the current developments on the issue of United Nations reform generally, and on the various, specific options which have been proferred in respect of the reform of the ECOSOC, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Commission. They also noted the proposed establishment of a Peace-building Commission.

    Ministers agreed that the decisions taken on UN reform will have long-lasting consequences for the functioning of the organisation, as well as for the development, security, and human rights issues that fall within its purview.

    Ministers also agreed to the establishment of a core Group of the Bureau expanded, and supported by the respective Permanent Representatives to the UN in New York, mandated to keep abreast of developments in the UN on the issue of reform as a whole, and to carry forward the views of the Community on these issues in a timely and coherent manner.

    Ministers agreed to keep Heads of Government fully informed of these developments.

    RIO GROUP

    The Ministers welcomed the assumption by Guyana on behalf of CARICOM of the Chairmanship of the Rio Group in 2006.

    They acknowledged the key role which the Rio Group continued to play as a forum for political consultation and cooperation in the Latin American region and in that regard pledged their continued support to Guyana in its chairmanship.

    The Ministers also agreed to recommend to the Conference the endorsement of Belize's application for full membership of the Rio Group.

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    The Ministers reaffirmed the importance the Region attached to its relationship with the United States. They underlined the necessity of ensuring that channels of communication remained open with this important hemispheric neighbour which, through the Third Border Initiative, has emphasised the interest it accords to the sub-region. The Ministers looked forward to their meeting with the Secretary of State during the upcoming OAS General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale and viewed this as an opportunity for the further strengthening of relations between the Community and the US.

    CANADA

    The Ministers reiterated the value the Community places on the special relationship with Canada, and on the maintenance of their fruitful relations, through existing bilateral mechanisms. Ministers looked forward to their forthcoming traditional engagement with the Canadian Foreign Minister in the margins of the upcoming OAS General Assembly and to continued dialogue at the level of Heads of Government.

    Ministers welcomed Canada's continued support for the reconstruction and development of Haiti.

    EUROPEAN UNION (EU)

    Ministers reaffirmed the critical importance the Region attaches to its relations with the European Union which are based on mutual respect and partnership. They noted that the current negotiations between the Caribbean and the European Union for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) are presently focused on support for the strengthening of Caribbean regional integration and that this phase will conclude in September 2005 with a Joint Caribbean - EU Ministerial Meeting. Ministers emphasised that while the EPA will result in new trading arrangements it must specifically take into account the differences in the level of development between the countries of the Caribbean and the EU and among the Caribbean countries themselves.

    The Ministers reiterated the shared commitment of the Caribbean and the EU that the EPA should be an instrument of development must find concrete expression in the provisions of the agreement.

    FRANCE/DFAs

    The Ministers noted the recent French initiatives for rapprochement with CARICOM as demonstrated by the proposal for a cooperation framework agreement between France and CARICOM.

    They welcomed the recent initiative to enhance the relationship between CARICOM and the Departments of France in the Americas (DFAs). Ministers observed that this relationship was particularly important in light of the ongoing negotiations for a region-specific Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean and the EU. They observed that the OECS Member States and Suriname have traditionally enjoyed close, mutually beneficial relations with their neighbouring DFAs. The Ministers agreed to the early establishment of a structured relationship between CARICOM and the DFAs.

    UNITED KINGDOM

    The Ministers reviewed implementation of decisions taken at the Fourth UK-Caribbean Forum and the preparations for the Fifth Forum which is scheduled to take place in Barbados in 2006. With regard to their relations with the UK, the Ministers noted the progress achieved in the framework of the UK-Caribbean security cooperation, the support given by the UK for HIV/AIDS, the two tourism projects and the trade and investment forum which is scheduled for 21 June 2005. The Ministers also noted that the United Kingdom assumed the Chairmanship of the G-8 on 1 June and will preside the EU as of 1 July 2005. The usefulness of the Transmission Mechanism adopted in Georgetown at the Third Meeting of the Forum in 2002, was underlined.

    ITALY

    The COFCOR welcomed the impending July 2005 visit of the CARICOM Secretary-General to Rome which has as one of its main objectives the strengthening of relations between the Community and Italy. In this regard a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed. The MOU identifies a number of areas in which the two parties seek to strengthen cooperation including science and technology, education and culture. The MOU will formalise the amicable relations already enjoyed by CARICOM and Italy.

    BRAZIL

    The Ministers acknowledged the growing influence of Brazil in hemispheric and global relations. They welcomed the initiatives by the administration of President Lula DaSilva to foster closer relations with the Caribbean Community and the offer of technical assistance and cooperation in the sugar and agricultural sectors and initiatives to strengthen trade links. The Ministers also welcomed the active consideration by Brazil of involvement in the Caribbean Development Bank. Ministers supported the continuation of exploratory discussions on a possible trade agreement between CARICOM and MERCOSUR, in which Brazil is a key member. They also agreed that the CARICOM-Brazil relationship should be formalised.

    CUBA

    The Ministers discussed issues arising from the Seventh Meeting of the CARICOM-Cuba Joint Commission held in March 2005 and the preparations for the Second CARICOM-Cuba Summit which will take place in Barbados in December 2005 to celebrate CARICOM-Cuba Day. They viewed this high level event as an important opportunity to further their dialogue on issues of relevance to the economic and social development of the Caribbean Region.

    MEXICO

    Ministers reiterated the value which the Community placed on its relationship with Mexico. They agreed that the CARICOM/Mexico Joint Commission should meet at the technical level at the earliest possible opportunity to continue discussions with a view to strengthening the relationship.

    EUROPEAN UNION, LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (EU/LAC)

    Ministers reviewed developments in the EU-LAC Bi-Regional process and reaffirmed that there is a compelling need to ensure full and effective participation by the Caribbean in the EU-LAC Summit process as a means of expanding the scope and range of their cooperation links with Latin American and EU partners. To that end they agreed that the Region must remain proactive in the process. They regarded strong participation by Caribbean Heads in the Fourth EU-LAC Summit in Austria in May 2006 as essential in order to contribute to the future direction of the process by securing the inclusion of issues of particular relevance to the Region on the EU-LAC agenda.

    INDIA

    The Ministers expressed appreciation at the initiatives taken subsequent to their meeting with the Minister of State in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Suriname in February of this year. These included the computerisation project for the new CARICOM headquarters building, the interest shown in supporting the work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize and the convening of a business forum in Trinidad and Tobago. They reiterated their commitment to strengthen this relationship and agreed that the inaugural meeting of the CARICOM-India Joint Commission should be held at a mutually convenient date.

    JAPAN

    The Ministers discussed preparations for the Second Meeting of CARICOM/Japan Foreign Ministers. They reaffirmed the importance of this valuable partnership, which had been formalised by the signing of a framework agreement in 2000. They expressed appreciation to the Government of Japan for its recent contribution to the construction of the new headquarters building for the CARICOM Secretariat, the support to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and especially to the recovery efforts following recent hurricanes, and the unprecedented flooding in Guyana and to the work on disaster management. They hoped that a mutually convenient date would soon be found for the Ministerial forum that provides for the advancement of bilateral cooperation and facilitates dialogue on issues of critical importance in multilateral fora.

    AFRICAN/CARIBBEAN DIASPORA CONFERENCE

    The Ministers received a report of the recommendations of the recently held "South Africa-African Union-Caribbean African Diaspora Conference" which was jointly hosted by South Africa and Jamaica in Kingston, Jamaica, in March 2005. The Ministers congratulated the two Governments on this initiative which was an important step in strengthening the relationship between the Caribbean and the African continent. They encouraged the CARICOM and the African Union Secretariats to continue their efforts to formalize their relationship with a view to facilitating the pursuit of the many recommendations arising from the Meeting and generally strengthening the relationship.

    The Ministers extended their condolences to the Hon. Foreign Minister of South Africa on the passing of her mother.

    The Ministers also acknowledged the important role which the Region's own Diaspora could play in furthering the Region's interests abroad and in supporting the Region's development initiatives and urged that a greater effort be made to develop relations with the Diaspora in all the metropolitan centres.

    CANDIDATURES

    The Ministers reiterated their support for the candidature of Ambassador Albert Ramdin of Suriname for the position of the OAS Assistant Secretary-General, and agreed to issue the attached statement. They also reaffirmed support for Dr Chelston Braithwaite of Barbados for the position of Director-General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Region's continued support for Trinidad and Tobago as the site of the FTAA Secretariat.

    They congratulated Dr. Carol Jacobs on her assumption of the Chair of the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM).

    BELIZE-GUATEMALA

    Ministers were briefed on the ongoing process in respect of the Belize-Guatemala Territorial Differendum.

    Ministers reaffirmed unequivocal support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize and urged the two countries to intensify the process of negotiations under the auspices of the OAS in order to bring the territorial claim to an early end through a peaceful, just and definitive resolution of the territorial differendum between the two countries. They expressed appreciation for the work of the office of the Secretariat of the OAS in the adjacency zone to maintain peace and improve relations between the peoples of the two countries, especially in the border area, and appealed to countries to support the special OAS Fund for that purpose.

    GUYANA-VENEZUELA

    The Ministers noted with satisfaction that relations between Guyana and Venezuela continued to be cordial.

    They underscored the importance of the ongoing dialogue at the level of Heads of State and Ministers of Foreign Affairs in promoting this cordiality and noted that such dialogue had resulted in a renewal of commitment to a peaceful settlement of the controversy through the mechanism of the United Nations Good Offices Process and to functional cooperation under the aegis of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission.

    The Ministers reiterated their full support for the preservation of Guyana's sovereignty and its right to the unrestricted development of all its territory for the benefit of its people.

    CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE MOVEMENT OF HAZARDOUS WASTE

    Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to pursue the objective of gaining international recognition of the Caribbean Sea as a special area within the context of sustainable development in light of its fragility and its importance to Caribbean peoples.

    In this regard, Ministers remained resolute in their opposition to the trans-shipment of nuclear waste and other hazardous materials through the marine environment of the Caribbean noting the serious threat to life and the ecosystems of the Caribbean.

    INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES

    The Ministers noted that in the "age of terrorism" security issues continued to figure prominently on the international agenda. The obligations in this area resulting from the adoption of international and hemispheric instruments related to the war against terrorism had been onerous for the limited resources of the small states of the Region. These obligations were however accepted as a matter of principle and of practicality.

    They noted that in the present environment of global interdependence, the internal and external aspects of security were inextricably linked.

    They expressed their concern that the centrality of this issue had diverted attention and resources from the priority issues of the developing world. In this regard, the Ministers reiterated their position that security was multifaceted in nature and agreed to continue to advocate this view in international fora and in their dialogue with third states.

    The Ministers noted the detention by US Immigration officials of Mr. Luis Posada Carriles, an individual long associated with acts of violence against the Government of Cuba and a primary suspect as one of the authors of the most horrific acts of terrorism ever experienced by the countries of CARICOM, the 1976 bombing of a Cubana aircraft in international waters off Barbados.

    The Ministers recalled the trauma this event had caused to the Governments and peoples of the Region, and to the families of the 73 innocent victims, who were citizens of countries both within the Caribbean and beyond. They reiterated their continuing concern to ensure that all of the perpetrators of this despicable crime be brought to justice and their expectation therefore that the Government of the United States of America would take appropriate action in respect of the accused terrorist in its custody. The Ministers further recalled the commitment which both CARICOM and the United States of America shared as members of the international community to fight against terrorism in all its forms, and their solemn undertaking, in keeping with the many Security Council Resolutions on the subject, that suspected terrorists should find no safe haven in any of their countries. They looked forward therefore to a satisfactory resolution of the present issue so that closure could be brought to this most painful event in the Region's history.

    HAITI

    The Ministers expressed their deep concern over the continuing deterioration of the situation in Haiti. The fragility and volatility of the security environment in Port-au-Prince had increased as illustrated by the most recent grave incidents of violence affecting Haitians of all walks of life. In this regard, they viewed the recommendation of the United Nations Secretary General to increase the size of MINUSTAH as being of critical importance.

    The Ministers noted that respect for human rights, due process and the rule of law remained abysmal. The prolonged detention of former Primer Minister Neptune before being charged was symptomatic of wider due process problems. They reiterated the importance of adherence to the principles enshrined in the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society as well as in hemispheric and international human rights instruments to which Haiti was a signatory.

    The Ministers acknowledged that the political challenges in Haiti remained daunting. They underlined the importance of the process of national dialogue in reducing polarization and helping to attain reconciliation and thereby contributing to an environment conducive to stability and development. In this regard the importance of accelerating the disbursement of funds pledged by the donor community was emphasized. It was feared that the slow progress of the voter registration process, organizational and logistical delays as well as security concerns would jeopardize the timely preparation of elections. The importance of an inclusive political and electoral process leading to free, fair and credible elections was underlined.

    The Ministers determined that CARICOM should remain engaged on Haiti and continue to provide assistance to the people of Haiti through the CARICOM Task Force on Haiti.

    NATURAL DISASTERS

    The Ministers recalled the devastation suffered by several Caribbean countries during the hurricane season of 2004. In this regard they paid tribute to the many countries and agencies which worked in partnership with the devastated countries and with CARICOM in relief and in the massive reconstruction effort that is still underway. They pledged their continued support and solidarity with the affected CARICOM States in their recovery effort.

    APPRECIATION

    Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Government and people of The Bahamas for the excellent arrangements made for the conduct of their Meeting and the hospitality extended during their stay.

    VENUE

    Ministers welcomed the offer by the Government of Grenada to host the Ninth Meeting of their Council in 2006.

    Freeport, Grand Bahama
    The Bahamas
    3 June 2005

    ATTACHMENT

    STATEMENT

    CARICOM FOREIGN MINISTERS REAFFIRM SUPPORT
    FOR ITS CANDIDATE FOR OAS POST

    The Caribbean Community Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), meeting in the Bahamas on 2 June 2005, led by the Hon. Frederick Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, reaffirmed the Community's unanimous support for the candidature of Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin of Suriname for the position of Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States at elections to be held during the XXXV Meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in June 2005. Ambassador Ramdin's candidature was endorsed by the CARICOM Heads of Government at their Twenty Fourth Conference held in July 2004. The CARICOM Foreign Ministers expressed their appreciation for the growing support that Ambassador Ramdin has received to date. In the spirit of unity and solidarity, CARICOM Foreign Ministers call for his election by acclamation of all participants at the Meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

    3 June 2005
    Grand Bahama, The Bahamas

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