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The Bahamas strengthens diplomatic ties with Haiti

NASSAU – The Bahamas will assist in restoring and institutionalizing security in Haiti through the training of Haitian police cadets by the Royal Bahamian Police Force, Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Fred Mitchell confirmed.

There will also be “serious exploration of economic investment gains in Haiti” in several sectors including agriculture, trade and construction, Mr. Mitchell told a luncheon held in his honour by the Honorary Consular Corps at Graycliff Restaurant on Wednesday, December 13, 2006.

He was informing them of the ties the Bahamas has formed with various nations around the world. He also reported on the performance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this year.

The Dean of the Honorary Consular Corps is the Consul General for Sweden, Anders Wiberg, who took up that post in 1969.

The Bahamas joined nine other Member States of the CARICOM in opening an embassy in Cuba in July of this year, Mr. Mitchell noted.
“Its presence has been a boon to Bahamians visiting Cuba, students and patients of the Miracle Plan Medical Programme for corrective ophthalmology,” he said.

And, despite reports in the media, Mr. Mitchell advised the diplomats that the Bahamas has not only sought interaction with its southern neighbours, but also maintains good relations with the U.S.

On August 4, the US and the Bahamas signed the Container Security Initiative (CSI) which was designed to pre-screen cargo destined for the United States.

The CSI has an element of reciprocity which will allow Bahamian Customs officials to inspect containers leaving the US for the Bahamas, the Minister said.

“It is hoped through this measure both the United States and the Bahamas will share the benefits of enhanced security while closing one more door of opportunity for would-be terrorists,” the Minister said.

The Bahamas is also a part of the Mega Ports Initiative which, Mr. Mitchell said, screens cargo for radioactive material leaving the Freeport Container Port for U.S. ports.

The U.S. has confirmed its commitment to the Passenger U.S. Customs and Immigration facility at Freeport despite the downturn in Grand Bahama’s tourism, Mr. Mitchell added.

This year, the Bahamas extended formal international contacts by establishing diplomatic relations with Botswana in May and Sierra Leone in October. Shortly, the Minister said, “formal diplomatic matters” will be concluded with Ireland and New Zealand.

The Foreign Trade Division headed by Ambassador A Leonard Archer, came within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in February.

It is a working division and is being “restructured and strengthened in order to administer effectively” the work which relevant overseas missions will be called upon to undertake.

As the Bahamas is the third largest Flag Registry in the world, Mr. Mitchell said, the Bahamas takes a very active interest in maritime affairs.

“We submitted a paper to the International Maritime Organization on reform of its Council, addressing, in particular, the lack of equitable geographical distribution within the Council.”

The Bahamas is in the process of acceding to the New York Convention 1958 on International Arbitration and the International Labour Organization Seafarer’s Convention, the Minister explained.

They are expected to enhance the competitiveness of the Bahamas as a Ship Registry, he explained.
He said he tried to integrate his Ministry’s work with the Ministry of Transport in international maritime matters as part of the mission to promote Bahamian trade abroad.”

In that connection, he paid an official visit to Turkey to launch a ship that is in the Bahamian registry and held talk with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mitchell said.

The preparatory process for machine readable passports has been completed, he said, and the operational aspect for phased, technical implementation, starting with certificates of identity, for issuance of an e-passport, commences January 2007.

The Ministry is also seeing a “glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel” as it works to create an agreement for Bahamians to travel to European Schengen countries without the hassle of getting a visa.

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