Jamaica Tuesday said that the visit of United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, should not be viewed as divisive, but an opportunity for bi-lateral engagement.
Pompeo, who is on a visit to several countries in Latin America, arrives later on Tuesday. He has already said that the two-day working visit will allow to meet with “many Caribbean leaders to discuss how we can all work together to promote our common democratic values and prosperity for all of our people,” adding “I’m looking forward to a fantastic set of meetings”.
Pompeo said he would also participate in a round table with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia.
But Caribbean Community (ARICOM) Chairman and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said last weekend that as chairman of CARICOM, it is impossible for me to agree that my Foreign Minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region”.
Her position has been supported by Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
But in a statement ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith said the talks between Pompeo and some Caribbean foreign ministers are being undertaken largely bilaterally and not within a CARICOM context.
“There is nothing unusual or divisive about such meetings. All countries, large and small, have a sovereign right to engage bilaterally with any other country, beyond any regional or hemispheric arrangements. This happens across the world even in political unions which CARICOM, indisputably, is not,” she said.
Johnson Smith said that Jamaicans should remember that the understanding in CARICOM is that member states should work to coordinate foreign policy and therefore collaborate on issues and consider each other’s positions, but there is no obligation to harmonise policy.
“The fact is that since its formation, members have, as is their sovereign right, voted differently and taken differing positions on a variety of issues. Jamaica has always both exercised that right and respected it when exercised by others.”
The Jamaican government minister said that her country will continue to act in a principled manner to ensure that the region remains a “zone of peace” while engaging with partner countries in advancing the country’s development goals and economic interests.
“We view the expanded context of these bilateral meetings as a welcome and positive development, since the last visit of a US Secretary of State to Jamaica in 2018.”
Johnson Smith will join Prime Minister Andrew Holness and senior cabinet ministers for bilateral talks with Pompeo on Wednesday. The meetings with the Caribbean counterparts will take place thereafter.