Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 14, 2017 (SKNIS): The Honourable Mark Brantley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, remains committed to expanding the diplomatic footprint of St. Kitts and Nevis by engaging other countries around the world, noting that as the smallest nation in the hemisphere and in a world that is increasingly hostile and difficult, it is his task to go out and make new friends and strengthen relationships with existing friends.
The foreign minister made these remarks at a town hall meeting held in Nevis at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Monday, 13 February, as part of the Government of National Unity week of activities in celebration of its second year anniversary in office.
“We have taken to that task with much gusto [and] I am quite pleased to announce that since assuming the role of minister of foreign affairs and the team being at work with the diplomats scattered throughout the globe, we have entered into formal diplomatic relations with 13 new nations, said the foreign minister, while noting that the 13 nations include Belarus, Bolivia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Kosovo, The Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, The Gambia, Saudi Arabia and Senegal. “We have also as part and parcel of our efforts sought to make it easier for our people to travel the distant lands and for people from distant lands to come and visit with us. We have therefore set about negotiating what we call visa waiver arrangements and these are reciprocal – we allow them to come here and they allow us to visit them as well without visas.”
Minister Brantley explained that achieving visa free access to countries means that citizens and residents alike who hold a valid passport of St. Christopher and Nevis and present it to the specified borders are allowed to enter without hindrance. “And so we have set about negotiating these arrangements and so far I am pleased to say that since this Team Unity Administration took office we can now travel with a St. Christopher and Nevis passport visa free to Kosovo, Ukraine, The Maldives, Indonesia, Seychelles, Bolivia and Brazil, and I am very happy to say we will be signing additional visa agreements,” he said.
The foreign minister said that the goal and objective of the government is to ensure that the passport of St. Kitts and Nevis becomes the most powerful in the Caribbean region.
“And we have achieved ranking in terms of our passport by the number of countries that allows passport holders to access their borders without a visa. And so, while we lost visa free access to Canada in 2014 – and we are working assiduously to enjoin and engage with the Canadian government – I want to tell you that we have not been resting,” said Minister Brantley.
He said that many persons might question the reasons behind having visa-free access to some of the countries mentioned, adding that it is an important venture, as it can help in one’s further development and even that of their families.
“I say to you that each and every country is important and we do not know where we or our children might end up. It is this government’s objective and purpose and intent to ensure that our people can travel the globe freely and we will continue along this path because we think it is a good path upon which we have embarked,” he said. “And so, I want you to understand that when we make announcements of this nature it is not necessarily counting how many people we get from Senegal in a day or a year, we are building the relations to ensure that generations of Kittitians and Nevisians can have that kind of access.”
Minister Brantley said that an important lesson to note from the engagement with other countries is that countries only allow other countries to access their borders visa free once they have developed confidence. He said that the government has been working and will continue to work hard to rebuild the confidence of the world in the state of St. Kitts and Nevis.