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Guatemala cancels leader's meeting with Trump as court mulls "safe third country" status for asylum seekers

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Guatemala City -- A meeting in Washington between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Guatemalan counterpart Jimmy Morales purportedly over a potential "safe third country" agreement for asylum seekers has been canceled, Guatemala's office of the presidency said Sunday. The presidency said that the meeting would be rescheduled because the Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on legal appeals aimed at preventing Morales from acceding to Mr. Trump's requests. The meeting had been set to take place Monday.

"Due to speculation and legal proceedings admitted for processing to the Constitutional Court, a decision was made to reschedule the bilateral meeting until we know what was resolved by said court," a statement said. "The government of the republic reiterates that at no moment has it contemplated signing an agreement to convert Guatemala into a safe third country."

It added that other bilateral issues in the public interest would continue to be discussed.

A senior Trump administration official said over the weekend that the meeting was "being rescheduled," adding that the U.S. "will continue to work with the Government of Guatemala on concrete and immediate steps that can be taken to address the ongoing migration crisis."

A "safe third country" agreement would mean that Salvadorans, Hondurans and people from elsewhere who cross into Guatemala would have to apply for asylum there instead of doing so at the U.S. border -- potentially easing the immigration crush that the United States is dealing with and handing Mr. Trump a concession he could tout as a win.

Critics have said that the Guatemalan government does not have the resources to help migrants and asylum seekers trying to get to the U.S. when tens of thousands of its own citizens have fled just this year.

Guatemalan migrants cover their faces upon their arrival from the United States, in Guatemala City
Guatemalan migrants cover their faces upon their arrival from the United States, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, July 12, 2019. REUTERS

U.S. officials said that "safe third country" is on the table though not finalized, but the Guatemalan government said it was not intending to make such a deal.

The Constitutional Court was scheduled to convene on Sunday to discuss the legal basis for prohibiting Morales, Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel and Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart from signing an agreement.

Alfredo Brito, secretary for presidential communication, told The Associated Press there is no scheduled date for a new meeting between Morales and Mr. Trump.

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