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Guatemalans OK effort to end territorial dispute with Belize

April 16, 2018

A woman is helped as she enters a polling station during a plebiscite concerning a border dispute with Belize, in Guatemala City, Sunday, April 15, 2018. Guatemalans are deciding whether their government should request the International Court of Justice to resolve the dispute that dates back to 1821 when Guatemala won independence from Spain and its border with the United Kingdom's territory was being decided. Guatemala recognized Belize's independence in 1992 but did not recognize its border. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalans have moved a step closer to resolving a longstanding territorial dispute with neighboring Belize, voting to send the issue to the International Court of Justice.

Vote counts show that a plebiscite on the question passed overwhelmingly on Sunday, winning about 95 percent of the vote, though abstention was high.

However, Belize has yet to hold its own referendum as stipulated under a 2008 agreement with Guatemala, under which both countries would ask the court to take up the matter.

Guatemala claims some 4,200 square miles (11,000 square kilometers) of terrain administered by Belize — essentially the country’s entire southern half. It’s a dispute that dates back to the 19th century, when Spain ruled Guatemala and Britain controlled Belize.

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