Foreign Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Mark Brantley has dismissed as “unnecessary noise” the recent position taken by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, in opposition to talks held here this week involving some of her CARICOM colleagues and the United States (US) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
Ahead of Wednesday’s talks with the senior US government official, hosted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and attended by Brantley, the Jamaican foreign minister, and at least four others, Mottley had openly declared that she would not be dispatching her foreign minister to Kingston for the meeting while warning the region of an attempt to divide the 15-member economic and trading bloc.
However, in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, Brantley stopped just short of confirming that Barbados had never been invited to the meeting in the first place while rejecting any suggestion of a deeper regional divide over the matter.
“I have great regard for Prime Minister Mottley. I think she is an outstanding leader, not only in Barbados, but in the region, but the truth is that CARICOM was never engaged in the context of this particular meeting,” Brantley explained.
“I think the difficulty that I have is to anticipate what the meeting is about and to use that anticipation to then bootstrap that into an opinion as to divisiveness in the region,” he said in further reaction to Mottley, whose position he cautioned “leads to unnecessary noise in the region, which is ultimately unhelpful”.
Controversy erupted last weekend after Pompeo’s official visit was announced, with Trinidad’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley siding with Mottley, while ministers from Belize, The Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and St Kitts and Nevis gladly accepted the US invitation to join him in Jamaica for talks.
Brantley, who is also the premier of Nevis, said it would have been foolhardy for his country, which he described as “the smallest country in the hemisphere”, to turn down an invitation from the “largest and most powerful country” in the world.
‘Foolish to pass up’
“I think we would have been foolish to pass up on that opportunity. The US has been a good friend to the region, and I think it is a relationship that matters,” he said, while acknowledging that St Kitts and Nevis was not at the table for earlier talks between US President Donald Trump and a select regional group in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, centred on trade and security.
“I don’t think there is any divide in CARICOM,” he stressed.
“It was an excellent meeting,” Brantley reported yesterday about the talks in Kingston.
He also described Pompeo’s stance in the meeting as “gentile”, explaining that while the US remains firm in its opposition to the Nicolás Maduro administration in Venezuela, there was no attempt to browbeat the region on the issue.
Speaking for St Kitts and Nevis, Brantley said no commitment was given by him to the US of support for the re-election of Luis Almagro to the post of secretary general of the Organisation of American States.
“All our positions were entirely consistent with CARICOM positions.
“CARICOM issues are our issues. The region is a single region,” Brantley said.
He further insisted that while it is the US’s prerogative to invite whosoever it chooses to a meeting, “I think that if Barbados, or Trinidad, or Grenada, or any of the others were here, that they equally would have raised [the pertinent] issues on behalf of St Kitts and Nevis if I could not have been here, and I think we need in the region to have some confidence in each other … .
“Certainly, where positions have not been agreed, we recognise that nations have a right to form their own views, but where CARICOM has articulated a view, I think we should have the confidence in our region that we will play by those rules and in accordance with the views that CARICOM has arrived at,” he stressed.
And while pointing to the absence of a One China policy within the region, he said: “That has never prevented us from coalescing around issues that are important to the Caribbean and to CARICOM. So I think we need to differentiate between what is a CARICOM position and what is a national position in so far as the various nations that comprise CARICOM, and I understand we have an obligation to coordinate foreign policy, but in coordinating foreign policy, it does not mean we are incapable or somehow prevented from engaging with other sovereign nations to advance bilateral, and, in our case here, to raise significant regional issues with Secretary of State Pompeo”. (Jamaica Gleaner Editorial)