No danger to St. Kitts and Nevis losing visa-free status waiver to Canada, says Foreign Minister Patrice Nisbett

(CUOPM) – The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is not aware of any efforts by the Government of Canada – or for that matter other countries – to effect changes to the visa free status waiver currently enjoyed by nationals and citizens of the Federation.

So said the Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Patrice Nisbett in a statement in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly on Tuesday 26th November 2013.

He was responding to unfounded statements by sacked former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, and other members of the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM), UNITY and PLP factions.

“It must be noted that where it is not feasible and/or practical to undertake such visits, the Government of St Kitts and Nevis has also relied on its Missions, Embassies located in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium respectively to represent the country’s interests in several international fora and to actively engage representatives of foreign Governments. One other mechanism utilised by successive Governments of St Kitts and Nevis, and indeed a number of countries, is to conduct their foreign policy through the appointment of Special Envoys/Representatives and/or Honorary Consuls, as evident by the increasing number of such persons accredited to represent the interests of foreign Governments in St Kitts and Nevis.. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, appointed by foreign governments to represent their interests in St. Kitts and Nevis,” the Foreign Minister said.

He pointed out that the practice of appointing Honorary Consuls is allowed for under Chapter three of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Whilst the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations does not specifically address the appointment of Special Envoys/Representatives, Governments have nonetheless offer such appointments to selected persons usually at the diplomatic rank to act in this capacity to fulfill some specific role.

“Consistent with that practise and further to Cabinet’s approval during its meeting on Monday 7th January 2013, Ministers having duly considered the content of a Memorandum dated January 4th 2013, approved the appointment of Mr. Alizeria Moghadam, a National of Iran who had formally acquired, following successful completion of all the necessary due diligence, citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis through the Investment Programme; as a Special Envoy to Azerbaijan and Turkey with the mandate ‘to explore areas of interest to the Federation.,” said Minister Nisbett.

Mr. Nisbett told Parliament that Mr. Moghadam was issued with a diplomatic passport and on n 10th January 2013, Mr. Moghadam presented his diplomatic passport when travelling to Canada.

“Authorities sought to confirm his role, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to Canada the details of Mr. Moghadam’s appointment and the specifics of his remit, including the fact that the areas in which Mr. Moghadam is authorized to represent the interests of St. Kitts and Nevis are Azerbaijan and Turkey,” he said.

The Foreign Minister said that in keeping with the traditionally constructive relations with the Government and people of Canada, the Government of St Kitts and Nevis continues to lend support to that country’s efforts to promote border security and reduce international terrorism in order to safeguard global peace and security.

He disclosed that the International Civil Aviation Organization – the international body with jurisdiction over matters pertaining to air travel – states that the inclusion of the ‘place of birth’ on a country’s passports is optional.

“That is, the world’s governing body on the standards and requirements governing passports does not require that an individual’s place of birth be specified in their passport. Nonetheless, in keeping with our ongoing commitment to improve border security, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has decided to make changes to our biometric passports, specifically to include place of birth in the document,” Mr. Nisbett told Parliament.

The ICAO’s position on “place of birth” designation in passports can be found in ICAO 9303, Part 1, Volume 1 (6th Edition, 2006), defined under Section IV-12/11 “Optional element in mandatory zone.”

“In addition, it is important to note that the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs has also been working with the Ministry of Homeland Security to ensure that name changes undertaken by nationals, citizens and/or residents are also duly reflected in the travel documents issued by the Federation,” said Foreign Minister Nisbett, who added:

“No-one understands better than we do, Mr. Speaker, the importance of our protecting our very special visa-free access to Canada and a number of European countries. Indeed, it is as a result of our extraordinary work in this area, and the regard in which St. Kitts and Nevis is held that, with the exception of one neighbor, St. Kitts and Nevis is the only OECS country that enjoys this visa free access to Canada and the European countries referred to above.”

He gave the assurance that St. Kitts and Nevis will continue working to maintain the longstanding tradition of openness and collaboration with its Canadian and other allies in order that these relationships will continue to go from strength to strength.

“Mr. Speaker, as we know, St Kitts and Nevis continues to enjoy very close, immutable bonds of friendship and cordial bilateral relation with Canada which have resulted in cooperation in several areas, health, education and training, security and the provision of economic assistance. Indeed, Canada continues to offer numerous opportunities to hundreds of Nationals of St Kitts and Nevis and their families who reside and contribute both to the development of that great country, as well as to the Federation through remittances and the lending of their expertise to various areas of social and economic advancement,” said Minister Nisbett.

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