The Department of State to the Guatemalan Embassy


The Department of State acknowledges the receipt of the Confidential Memorandum from the Embassy of Guatemala, delivered to the Department on March 18, 1948, with regard to the Belize dispute. The following comment is submitted in connection with the numbered paragraphs1 therein.

The suggestion that the Bogotá Conference adopt a resolution with reference to the concrete case of Belize raises questions similar to those created by the resolution on European colonies now on the agenda. The views of the United States Government on the latter are already known to the Guatemalan Government.2 As the Guatemalan Foreign Minister has been informed by the United States Ambassador, certain of the territories now in dispute between American and non-American powers have been the cause of friction over a long period. The United States is a party to none of these disputes but has followed a scrupulously objective and impartial position with respect to claims [Page 87] of either party. It is the position of the United States that such disputes should be settled by peaceful means available to” all and consistent with the United Nations charter.3 It accordingly would not seem appropriate for the American nations unilaterally to take a position in favor of one of the parties to this dispute at a conference from which the other is excluded. Such action would tend to militate against and possibly prevent a calm and judicial solution of the problem. For these reasons the United States cannot support the adoption of such a resolution.
The United States Government, like that of Guatemala, is most sincere in its desire for the complete success of the Ninth Inter-American Conference at Bogotá, and is therefore confident that the Guatemalan Government will refrain in so far as may be possible from pressing at Bogotá for consideration of a dispute with a non-American democratic power. This is especially desirable in view of the critical world situation when the need for unity among the democratic countries of the world is daily more urgent and apparent. The United States Government has long been anxious that a proper and equitable solution of the dispute be reached. It was therefore with much satisfaction that it learned that the Governments of Guatemala and Great Britain were willing to refer the problem to the International Court of Justice which is eminently qualified to render a just decision. It was a cause of real concern when the two parties could not agree on the terms of reference. The United States is still hopeful that a formula may be found which would permit a decision by the Court and would be happy to be of any assistance to that end. In this connection it would appreciate any suggestions which the Guatemalan Government may care to make.
The United States will be glad to urge the immediate withdrawal of the British forces which recently disembarked in Belize on the understanding that the Guatemalan Government would be willing, simultaneously with the proposed British action, to withdraw to their previous stations the armed forces which it sent to the frontier, following the disembarkment of the British, and would reopen the frontier.
The United States is always ready to extend its informal good offices to the end that a pacific, just and equitable solution be reached. Any action of this nation would, of course, be dependent on a formal request from the two parties. As stated in paragraph B above, the United States Government is firmly convinced that the most satisfactory procedure in the present instance would be for the problem to be presented to the International Court of Justice.
The United States Government does not consider that it could with propriety take any action with regard to this paragraph. It may [Page 88] be stated, however, for the confidential information of the Guatemalan Government that the United States Government has reason to believe that the British Government does not contemplate any change in the immediate future in the territorial status of the area under dispute.
  1. See memorandum of conversation by the Chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs (Newbegin), March 18, p. 85.
  2. See circular telegram, March 5, 1948, 4 a. m., p. 10.
  3. Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. 1031.