July 14, 2019 / 4:16 PM / 3 months ago

Guatemala postpones Trump summit, says will not sign 'safe third country' deal

FILE PHOTO: Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales gestures after a meeting with acting Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, unseen in Guatemala City, Guatemala May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala said on Sunday it would postpone President Jimmy Morales’ visit to Washington to discuss Guatemala’s potential designation as a ‘safe third country’ for asylum seekers, stressing it had no plans to sign such an agreement.

In a statement, Guatemala said the planned meeting between Morales and U.S. President Donald Trump this week had been postponed until the Guatemalan Constitutional Court had ruled on legal challenges. Last week, five former senior officials appealed to the court to block any agreement with the United States that would declare Guatemala a ‘safe third country.’

Under such a deal, Guatemala would be obliged to offer asylum to migrants who entered its territory en route to the United States. Migrants from Honduras and El Salvador heading to the U.S.-Mexican border overland usually cross into Mexico via Guatemala.

Over the past week, opposition has mounted to such a designation for Guatemala, which would reshape migration in the region.

“The government of the republic reiterates that at no point it considers signing an agreement to convert Guatemala into a safe third country,” the Guatemalan government said:

A senior U.S. official said: “The meeting is being rescheduled.”

“The United States will continue to work with the Government of Guatemala on concrete and immediate steps that can be taken to address the ongoing migration crisis,” the U.S. official added.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu and Howard Schneider; Writing by Julia Love and Mike Stone; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Peter Cooney

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