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Establishment of a System to Establish Confidence-Building Measures and Reduce Tensions in the Caribbean Sea


Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
February 7, 2000

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Communiqué and Memorandum of Understanding Signed By the Foreign Ministers of the Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua and the Special Representative of the OAS

San Salvador, El Salvador

The Foreign Ministers of the Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua, in follow-up to the meetings held in Miami and Washington, D.C., met in San Salvador, on February 6 and 7, 2000, in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, and agreed to issue the following communiqué:

To prevent actions which might affect regional peace and neighborly relations, and to promote Central American integration, the ministers have agreed to establish the following system of measures to build confidence and reduce tensions in the Caribbean Sea, which shall remain in effect until the International Court of Justice determines the sea border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea.

  1. Honduras and Nicaragua shall not maintain any military or police posts along or in the Caribbean Sea other than those existing prior to September 1, 1999. The two Parties therefore undertake to withdraw, within 30 days, to the positions that existed before that date.

  2. Honduras and Nicaragua shall refrain from carrying out any military or police action along or in the Caribbean Sea which might provoke incidents or serve as an obstacle to the peaceful resolution of any dispute.

  3. The Parties agree to establish a combined Honduran-Nicaraguan patrol mechanism. Pursuant to their respective domestic legal provisions, the Parties may, by common agreement, invite another member state of or an observer to the Organization of American States to appoint representatives to that patrol mechanism.

  4. At the request of one or both Parties, the combined patrol mechanism shall operate in the following areas:

    • Prevention of incidents between Honduran and Nicaraguan naval vessels
    • Verification of any military presence in violation of this agreement
    • Drug interdiction operations
    • Control of acts of piracy against Honduran and Nicaraguan fishermen
    • Rescue operations

  1. The other operational details of the combined patrol mechanism shall be agreed at technical levels within 45 days of the date of this agreement, and shall come into force within 15 days of the date hereof.

  2. The Ministers hereby agree that any doubt or discrepancy regarding the interpretation or application of this agreement shall be resolved amicably by the Parties, with the good offices of the Special Representative appointed for this purpose by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

  3. The Parties hereby agree that neither the provisions of this document nor the implementation thereof shall in any way prejudice the positions maintained by or the rights of each State, nor shall they create rights or constitute precedents conferring rights on either of the Parties.

  4. The Foreign Ministers reaffirm the will of their respective countries to resolve their differences peacefully and to comply faithfully with the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the sea border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea.

The Ministers expressed their conviction that the content of this communiqué contributes to promoting peace and reducing tension and fosters the integrationist spirit of the two States.

Roberto Flores Bermúdez
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Honduras

Eduardo Montealegre Rivas
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Nicaragua

Luigi R. Einaudi
Special Representative of the Organization of American States

February 7, 2000



MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

Mr. Roberto Flores Bermúdez, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Honduras and Mr. Eduardo Montealegre Rivas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Nicaragua, meeting at the headquarters of the Organization of American States, in the presence of Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, in anticipation of the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the sea border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the case regarding the maritime demarcation of the Caribbean Sea submitted to that Court by the Republic of Nicaragua, to which the Republic of Honduras is a party, agree the following confidence-building measures to complete the implementation of the agreements signed in Miami and San Salvador, on December 30, 1999 and February 7, 2000, respectively.

These confidence-building measures, developed on the basis of information provided by the Honduran and Nicaraguan technical delegations, promote:

  • Reliable, continuous communication
  • Implementation of joint peace-keeping activities
  • Programming of regular, coordinated activities
  • Implementation of mechanisms for emergency situations

I. The combined patrol mechanism in the Caribbean Sea shall operate as follows:

  1. The presence of the two Parties, at the same time, using their respective facilities and equipment, is required for the conduct of a combined patrol operation.

  2. At the request of one or both Parties, the combined patrol in the Caribbean Sea shall operate in the following areas:

    1. Verification of possible places where military forces may be present to ascertain that such presence does not violate the agreement of February 7, 2000 which provides that no military or police posts shall be maintained along or in the Caribbean Sea other than those existing prior to September 1, 1999.

    2. Drug interdiction operations.

    3. Prevention of piracy on the sea.

    4. At the request of private fishing boats, industrial fishing boats, merchant ships, recreational vessels, etc., search, salvage, and rescue operations shall be carried out, after the Armed Forces of the two countries have communicated directly or via diplomatic channels.

  1. Organizational and coordination measures:

      a. Combined patrols shall be organized at any time they are needed to prevent incidents and facilitate the peaceful resolution of disputes.

      b. Before any mission begins, a means for exchanging information in writing shall be established, by fax, e-mail, or any other method.

      c. To ensure communication between vessels, two high frequency (HF) radiocommunications channels and two very high frequency (VHF) radiocommunications channels have been designated within the shipping band, permitting radio information to be communicated by fax for use by surface units at least 48 hours prior to the commencement of patrol operations.

  1. Except in the cases referred to in paragraph 2.d, combined patrol operations shall be planned, for implementation by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the respective States Parties.

II. Freezing the build-up of effective forces and establishment of border posts

To achieve conditions in which conflict and incidents between the military forces of Honduras and Nicaragua are prevented, as established in the agreements of Miami of December 30, 1999, the following measures are established with respect to troops in or near the land border area.

  1. Honduras and Nicaragua shall restore their respective border posts to the levels and composition existing as of September 1, 1999.

  2. Artillery units and weapons shall not come within 23 kilometers of the border unless they are located at fixed installations within that distance.

  3. Tanks and armored vehicles shall not come within 50 kilometers of the border, unless they are located at fixed installations within that distance.

  4. Means of electronic warfare shall not come within 50 kilometers of the border.

  5. Notification shall be given of flights of military aircraft within 30 kilometers of the land border or within the corresponding part of the Caribbean Sea.

  6. The mechanism established shall take account of the mine-clearing programs being carried out, with the collaboration of the OAS/IADB, in Honduras and Nicaragua, so that the regular operations thereof are not interrupted.

    1. Additional markings shall be painted or placed on vehicles and helicopters supporting the mine-clearing program.

    2. There shall be coordination of mine-clearing areas on both sides of the Honduran-Nicaraguan border to enable direct, immediate communication to take place, in the presence of supervisors or technical observers.

III. Confidence-building measures and coordinated patrolling in the respective jurisdictional waters of Honduras and Nicaragua in the Gulf of Fonseca

  1. Honduras and Nicaragua shall restore their respective naval forces, facilities, and equipment to the levels and composition existing as of September 1, 1999.

  2. Surface units of the two countries shall be equipped with GPS to enable the exact location of each unit during its patrols to be recorded at regular intervals. The recording of the location of each surface unit shall be verified by observers and a copy thereof shall be submitted to the Organization of American States.

  3. Radio frequencies shall be standardized and communications systems shall be compatible so that patrols are coordinated in a systematized and reliable way by the Honduran and Nicaraguan naval forces.

  4. Coordinated patrols shall be organized so that each Party patrols, with its respective forces, facilities and equipment, its respective jurisdictional waters, when it deems appropriate, in coordination with the other Party, via the established means of communication.

IV. Establish the following general confidence-building measures for application in connection with points I, II, and III of this agreement:

  1. At least 30 days' notice shall be given, via the established means of communication, of all military exercises and non-administrative military movements.

  2. A permanent channel of communication between the General Staff [Estado Mayor General], Nicaraguan Army, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Estado Mayor Conjunto], Honduran Armed Forces, shall be created to exchange or transmit information on any unplanned military measures taken, without prejudice to subsequent notification thereof via diplomatic channels.

  3. Coordination and exchange of information shall be maintained along the command hierarchy from brigade, to battalion, to company, to platoon levels, and with border posts and naval bases.

  4. After information is exchanged via diplomatic channels, agreement shall be reached with respect to the location of contingency border posts to conduct operations against criminal gangs, livestock rustlers, smugglers, smugglers of illegal aliens, drug traffickers, and to protect biological reserves.

  5. Conflict settlement mechanism: in case of armed incident, the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Subjefe del Estado Mayor Conjunto], Honduran Armed Forces, and the Chief, General Staff [Jefe del Estado Mayor General], Nicaraguan Army; the Commanders of Naval Forces [Comandantes de las Fuerzas Navales] of the Parties; and the Commander-in-Chief [Comandante General], Honduran Army, and the Chief of Operations [Jefe de Operaciones], Nicaraguan Army, shall contact each other immediately to analyze the situation and prevent an increase in tension and/or fresh incidents, seeing that no publicity is given to the incident.

    If the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Honduran Armed Forces, and the Chief, General Staff, Nicaraguan Army; the Commanders of the Naval Forces of the Parties; and the Commander-in-Chief, Honduran Army, and the Chief of Operations, Nicaraguan Army, are unable to reach agreement, the situation shall be submitted to the Commander-in-Chief [Comandante en Jefe], Nicaraguan Army, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Jefe del Estado Mayor Conjunto], Honduran Armed Forces, to analyze the situation and prevent an increase in tension and/or new incidents, seeing that no publicity is given to the incident.

    Should no agreement be reached, the Honduran and Nicaraguan Armed Forces shall submit the situation to their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs. Should no agreement be reached, either of the Parties, unilaterally or jointly, shall submit the situation to the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the OAS.

V. International cooperation

This agreement is open to the cooperation of third countries or international organizations for purposes of application and verification.

  1. The presence of technical representatives of the OAS member states or observers to the Organization shall be requested to carry out supervisory and monitoring missions in fulfillment of the confidence-building measures adopted herein.

  2. Individual cases shall be submitted for observation, with the agreement of the Parties, on a case-by-case basis.

  3. Interpretation: The Ministers hereby agree that the Parties shall amicably resolve any doubt or discrepancy with respect to the interpretation or application of this agreement, with the good offices of the Special Representative appointed for these purposes by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

IV. Protection of the rights of the Parties

The patrol mechanisms established in this Memorandum shall not affect the rights of the Parties over their respective maritime spaces, and their participation in such mechanisms shall not imply, in any way or in any circumstances, a renunciation, whether total or partial, of the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Parties over their respective national territories, territorial waters, or adjacent maritime areas, safeguards for which are provided under international law. Neither do the mechanisms prejudice any rights or positions, nor do they constitute precedents on which to base any attempt to generate rights.

Roberto Flores Bermúdez
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Honduras

Eduardo Montealegre Rivas
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Nicaragua

Luigi R. Einaudi
Special Representative of the Organization of American States

March 7, 2000



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