Governor Peter Beckingham (third right) and delegation meets with Dominican Republic government officials
Governor Peter Beckingham and the permanent secretary of the ministry of border control and labour, Clara Gardiner, held talks on February 12 in Santo Domingo with the foreign minister of the Dominican Republic, Andres Navarro, two vice ministers, the head of the navy and a team of officials.
The following were among the main conclusions of the meeting:
• The Dominican Republic expressed a wish to open a full time consulate in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The governor agreed to discuss this request with the premier and minister of border control and notify the foreign minister as soon as possible;
• The foreign minister and governor noted the increasing number of arrests of Dominican Republic fishermen operating illegally within TCI waters. They agreed that it was important to prevent this activity, and that it would be helpful for officials from both sides to open a dialogue, including about the possibility of co-operation between the Dominican Republic's navy and TCI's police force;
• The foreign minister and governor noted the likelihood of illegal human trafficking between the two countries, and agreed they should increase efforts to prevent this;
• Both sides noted that there were prospects for more trade and investment between the two countries, including possibly in construction materials and processing, as well as direct investment in the tourism sector, and the services sector. They noted the value of the increased airlift by InterCaribbean Airlines between TCI and the Dominican Republic;
• The foreign minister expressed his wish to visit TCI, possibly with a small business delegation. The governor welcomed this;
• The Dominican Republic said that it continued to seek a consensus among relevant bodies about maritime demarcation issues, and TCI recorded its and the UK government's hope that this could be resolved.
Commenting on the talks, the governor said:
"This was a meaty and productive exchange, the first for many years. I am grateful to the DR foreign minister, Andres Navarro, for giving so much of his and his team's time for such a high level exchange. I am delighted that the foreign minister intends to visit the Turks and Caicos Islands to see for himself the successes I described.
"The increase in illegal fishing is clearly a matter of concern for the DR as well as TCI, and the instigation of talks about the subject should set us on a path to trying to reduce the number of incidents.
"It is also excellent news for Turks and Caicos, and its 4,000 registered DR citizens, that DR is looking to open a consulate in Providenciales. This could greatly help relations between our two countries.
"Given the small size of TCI compared to DR these talks represent a real breakthrough in our relationship. I am grateful to the support of the British ambassador in facilitating them, and I am confident TCI can build on them for our long term benefit."
The governor also met the new UK (non-resident) Ambassador to Haiti, Sharon Campbell, in Santo Domingo. They agreed that, in view of the current political uncertainties, they would postpone pressing the Haitian government for agreement to an MOU, but would return to this once presidential elections had been completed.