JIS News

The CARICOM initiative aimed at brokering a peaceful solution to the current political crisis in Haiti received a boost on Friday (Feb.13) with a strong statement of support from the United States (U.S.) Government, the Government of Canada, as well as the Organization of American States (OAS).
These sentiments were reflected in a joint statement, which was issued following a round of high-level meetings in Washington, initiated by CARICOM, in an effort to stem the growing unrest in Haiti and to restore conditions for meaningful dialogue between the government led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide and representatives of the opposition.
The CARICOM delegation, which was led by Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, K.D. Knight and Bahamian Foreign Minister, Fred Mitchell, also included CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Colin Grandison and the Jamaica’s non-resident envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Peter Black.
Discussions were held with U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell; Canada’s Foreign Minister, Bill Graham; OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, as well as representatives of the French government and the European Union. Minister Knight characterized the meetings as “extremely productive” and expressed the hope that the strong international backing for the CARICOM plan would enhance prospects for a negotiated settlement to the crisis.
Mr. Knight described the embrace of the CARICOM initiative as “a strong commitment to move the process forward and signals a clear commitment to the democratic process in Haiti and to the Haitian constitution, and also ensures that any political change is in accordance with accepted democratic traditions.”
“This initiative must be transformed into an action plan with the Haitian government and the opposition accepting and honouring their commitments,” he stated. Mr. Knight also called for the implementation of confidence-building measures, which would serve to foster a spirit of trust and lead to a “new engagement” between the parties, thus reducing the political tension and social instability, which has dramatically increased in Haiti since the beginning of the year.
In a separate meeting with U.S. congressional officials and members of the CARICOM Ambassadors Caucus (CAC) in Washington, the Foreign Minister noted that the acceptance of the CARICOM plan, as the centerpiece of a new thrust to restore public order and to aid Haiti’s nascent democratic process, “demonstrates full endorsement by the international community of CARICOM’s commitment to a peaceful, negotiated, and constitutional resolution” to the current impasse.
“Any attempt, therefore, to remove President Aristide from power by force will be strongly opposed. We will not accept a coup d’etat,” Mr. Knight declared. He also welcomed statements made by Secretary Powell rejecting the use of unconstitutional means to remove the Haitian President, noting that it was important that the international community stood as one in repudiating any attempts to roll back democratic change in Haiti and to prevent democratic institutions from taking root.
On Friday, Mr. Powell repeated statements given in his testimony on Thursday (Feb.12) to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he said that the U.S. would back efforts by CARICOM to mediate the deadlock between President Aristide and the opposition.
“We are standing behind the CARICOM proposal, which both sides are examining and finding ways to move forward on, to find a political solution to this current crisis, but not a political solution that says President Aristide is illegal and he has to go. He is the president; we are only interested in a democratic solution, a constitutional solution, and we will continue to work to that end,” General Powell stated.
Minister Knight also announced that efforts were currently under way to “beef up” the OAS mission now in Haiti and to provide financial and material assistance, which would allow the OAS to expand its contribution. He also stated that plans were currently under consideration to provide further support to the Haitian police and to assist in the restoration of public order in Haiti, while facilitating the resumption of commerce and the provision of needed humanitarian assistance throughout the country.
Confirming that there were no current discussions aimed at introducing a multinational or other force, which would intervene in the current crisis, Mr. Knight emphasized that it was therefore critical that the Haitian security forces be provided with an “appropriate level of support, which would enable them to restore normalcy” within the country.

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