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Communiqué Issued at The Conclusion Of The Eighteenth Meeting Of The Council For Foreign And Community Relations (COFCOR), 21-22 May 2015 Castries, Saint Lucia

The Eighteenth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) took place in Castries, Saint Lucia, on 21-22 May 2015, under the chairmanship of the Honourable Alva Baptiste, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia.

 

The COFCOR was attended by the Hon. H. Charles Fernandez, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Antigua and Barbuda; Hon. Frederick A. Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration of The Bahamas; Senator the Hon. Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados; Hon. Wilfred Peter Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General of Belize; Hon. Senator Francine Baron, Minister of Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs of  Dominica; Hon. Dr. Clarice Modeste Curwen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada; Hon. Mark A.G. Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis; and Senator the Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade Commerce and Technology of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

 

His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue, Ambassador of Haiti to The Bahamas, represented Haiti; Ms. Joy Wheeler, Under Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, represented Jamaica; H.E. Michel Kerpens, Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented Suriname; Ms. Francis Seignoret, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented Trinidad and Tobago.  The OECS Commission was represented by H.E. Anthony Severin, Head of International Relations.

 

 

Opening Ceremony

 

Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia and Chair of the COFCOR, the Hon. Alva Baptiste, addressed the Opening Ceremony.

 

The Secretary-General posited that the annual meetings of the COFCOR were opportunities for the Community’s Foreign Ministers to meet and engage in meaningful dialogue with each other and with invited representatives from Third Countries.

 

He observed that the Eighteenth Meeting of the COFCOR provided an opportunity to focus on a diverse range of concerns and priorities which form part of the foreign policy positioning of the Community and to strategize on the policies and best practices suited for Member States.

 

In response to today’s changing global environment, Secretary-General LaRocque indicated that CARICOM had diversified and widened its links with Third States, while simultaneously deepening existing relations.

 

He also highlighted several forthcoming international conferences on issues of critical importance to the region, inter alia, financing for development, the post-2015 development agenda and climate change. 

 

The Hon. Alva Baptiste, Chair of COFCOR expressed appreciation on behalf of his Colleagues to the Outgoing Chair of the Council, the former Foreign Minister of Guyana, for her expert stewardship over the past year. 

 

The Honourable Minister indicated that he looked forward to a fruitful meeting of the COFCOR, which would discuss various matters of significance to the region among which were migration and transnational security concerns and also administrative modalities to improve the coordination of foreign policy.

 

He also mentioned the novel development that this year’s COFCOR was preceded by the Inaugural Meeting of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which took place on 20 May 2015 in Saint Lucia.

 

The Retreat

 

Foreign Ministers took the opportunity of their annual retreat to reflect on “Current and Emerging Transnational Security Threats: The Foreign Policy Dimension of Security”.

 

While identifying transnational security issues, Foreign Ministers also made clear their intentions to bring visibility to and examine solutions for important areas related to national security and citizen security, namely securing the territorial waters of Member States; managing cross-border health threats; and combating the illicit transfer of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs).

 

Foreign Ministers also identified the importance of job creation and education as significantly linked to ensuring that the youth of CARICOM Member States remain on a promising path to advancement and a better quality of life.  Foreign Ministers concluded that one of the major threats to the security of the Region was youth crime.  They took note, also, of the need to address the new dimensions of security threats to the region and to continue to engage international partners in seeking solutions to counter these threats.

 

Ultimately, Foreign Ministers were of the considered view to continue to treat the matter of transnational security from a multidimensional vantage point and to actively liaise with national, regional, and international stakeholders to confront these issues in practical and meaningful ways.

 

They concluded that the Community needed to take into account the geostrategic importance the Caribbean Sea provides along with its diplomatic, developmental and security interests in developing a geostrategic vision for the future.

 

Bilateral Matters

 

Foreign Ministers reviewed the Region’s relations with a number of countries with which it has partnerships.  Particular attention was paid to the follow up to the recent Summit with President Obama, to the preparations for the coming Ministerial meeting with India and to proposed bilateral meetings.

 

The COFCOR also, met with Foreign Ministers from Sweden and New Zealand, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from Japan, and the Special Envoy of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy.

 

In the case of Sweden, the main issues discussed revolved around climate change, graduation, access to concessional financing for CARICOM countries, ICT, and Sweden’s request for CARICOM’s support of its candidature for a non-Permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the period  2017-2018. 

 

Concerning New Zealand, discussions centered around bilateral and regional cooperation between New Zealand and CARICOM Member States in key areas such as renewable energy, agriculture, human resource development and disaster management. Ministers express support for New Zealand’s initiative in the UN Security Council to organize an open debate on the security challenges facing Small Island Developing States.

 

Additionally, the COFCOR exchanged views with the State Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Japan.  In this context, both sides expressed satisfaction with the recently-concluded CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year (2014) and underscored their continued commitment to strengthening existing relations with each other.  Amongst issues discussed were United Nations Security Council Reform, Japan’s candidature for a 2016-2017 non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and Japan taking into account the vulnerabilities of Middle Income Countries in determining ODA.

 

The COFCOR also exchanged views with the Special Envoy of the EU High Representative on the necessity for CARIFORUM and EU to resume political dialogue as well as the importance of addressing the human rights situation of Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic as part of the dialogue.

 

Additionally, the date of the signing of Visa Waiver Agreements with several Member States was confirmed as 28 May 2015 in the margins of the 40th session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers.

 

Lastly, the COFCOR discussed identification of locations for possible joint representation and highlighted the importance of determining common countries of interest, based on national priorities and strategic importance.

 

Multilateral Relations: Preparations for Upcoming Conferences

 

In relation to the United Nations, the COFCOR discussed recent developments with regard to Security Council reform.  They discussed their preparations for the following upcoming meetings that will formulate policies of critical importance to the development of CARICOM States, and with regard to climate change, their very survival: the Third International Conference for Financing for Development in July; the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September; and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December, and committed to participation in these meetings.

 

The COFCOR received an update on the issues of importance before the Organization of American States (OAS).  Ministers reiterated the importance they give to development issues as one of the priorities of the organization and looked forward to discussions to be held at the forthcoming Forty-Fifth General Assembly of the OAS on 15-16 June 2015 in Washington, DC, under the theme “The Present and Future of the OAS”.  CARICOM Foreign Ministers will take advantage of the occasion to hold a meeting with their SICA counterparts.

 

With regard to CELAC, Foreign Ministers noted the increasing dynamism and influence of this integration process bringing together Latin American and Caribbean States.  They consequently underlined the importance of CARICOM participation in order to contribute fully to the positioning and statements of the organization. Ministers reiterated the importance of increasing coordination and ensuring the visibility of CARICOM issues in order to maximize the benefits of membership of the organization.  In this regard, they reviewed the coming EU-CELAC Summit.

 

Candidatures

 

The COFCOR continued to emphasize the importance of CARICOM’s participation in international bodies, including through the pursuit of increased CARICOM representation in these organizations.  In this regard, Ministers endorsed a number of CARICOM candidatures to the UN, hemispheric and other multilateral institutions and agreed to engage in further consultation in relation to the requests by Third Countries for CARICOM support for their candidatures to these bodies. Trinidad and Tobago welcomed the endorsement of its bid to host the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty by GRULAC, Sweden, and New Zealand. 

 

Ongoing Issues of Concern

 

In reviewing regional and international issues, CARICOM Foreign Ministers reiterated their deep concern regarding the increasingly precarious human rights situation faced by Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.

 

Concerning border issues, Foreign Ministers received an update on the relations between Belize and Guatemala, including their efforts to strengthen bilateral relations and set a new date to hold successful referenda in both countries in respect of their commitment under the Special Agreement to submit Guatemala's Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim to the International Court of Justice of 2008.

 

Ministers welcomed the signing of thirteen bilateral cooperation agreements between Belize and Guatemala in December of 2014, in Placencia, Belize, that will strengthen their bilateral relationship and build greater confidence between the two countries. 

 

Ministers supported the decision by both countries to amend the Special Agreement to allow for the referendum to be held simultaneously or separately in each country at their own convenience. They urged the international community to support the efforts of both countries, in coordination with the OAS, to comply with the Special Agreement and continue strengthening their bilateral relations.

 

Ministers reiterated their support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize, which remains of paramount importance to the Caribbean Community.

Ministers of Foreign Affairs, as is customary, also took note of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela with regard to the existing controversy which arose as a result of Venezuela’s contention that the arbitral award of 1899, which definitely settled the boundary between the two countries, is null and void. They noted that Guyana had commenced a review of the options available under Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, as provided by the 1966 Geneva Agreement that could serve to bring an end to the controversy. 

 

Ministers expressed their continued support for the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

 

Forum on the Future of the Caribbean

 

The COFCOR commended Trinidad and Tobago for hosting the recently concluded “Forum on the Future of the Caribbean: Disruptive Thinking, Bold Action, Practical Outcomes” from 5 to 7 May 2015. The participation and exchanges were of a high quality, and the event provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between policy makers and the wider public.

 

Law of the Sea

 

Member States reaffirmed the importance of the Law of the Sea convention and the importance of participation in the Twenty-First Annual Session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) scheduled to be held on 13 – 24 July 2015 in Kingston, Jamaica and the preceding meeting of the Legal and Technical Commission on 6 – 10 July 2015.

Deposit of Instruments of Accession

 

The COFCOR witnessed the signing by the Foreign Minister of The Bahamas of Instruments of Accession to the following three agreements:

 

Agreement Establishing the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS);

 

Memorandum of Understanding for the Sharing of Intelligence among Member States of the Caribbean Community; and

 

Memorandum of Intent between the Government of the United States of America and Member States of the Caribbean Community on Co-operation regarding the development of an Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).

 

Appreciation

The Ministers expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Saint Lucia for the warm hospitality, excellent arrangements and courtesies extended which greatly facilitated the fruitful deliberations of the Eighteenth Meeting of the COFCOR. 

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