Haiti, Dominican Republic to discuss court ruling

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haiti and the Dominican Republic will meet next month in an effort to resolve questions over a widely debated court decision that could render thousands of Haitian Dominicans stateless, Haiti's foreign minister said Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre-Richard Casimir told The Associated Press that five senior officials from each country will meet on Jan. 7 in the Haitian border town of Ouanaminthe.

With representatives from the United Nations, European Union and Caribbean present, they plan to discuss commerce and security issues but will focus mostly on a recent court decision in the Dominican Republic that threatens to strip citizenship from residents born to migrants who were living in the country illegally. Many of those affected are of Haitian descent.

"The main issue is the court ruling," Casimir said by telephone.

The gathering follows a meeting in Caracas this week by Haitian President Michel Martelly and Dominican President Danilo Medina at a conference for countries that belong to a Venezuelan trade bloc. The two countries that share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola had stopped talking to each other after Caribbean leaders became the latest international group to condemn the court ruling. Each had also pulled its ambassador from the other's country.

Tensions arose around the same time when the Dominican military bused more than 350 Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent to the border following the killing of a Dominican couple.

Dominican authorities said people left on their own accord because they feared reprisals. The Dominican Republic has since promised to halt such repatriations, Casimir said.

Migrant advocates say the September ruling from the Dominican Republic's highest court affects some 200,000 people, who could lose their citizenship and the documents they need to work or attend school. The Dominican government said in a preliminary report that only about 24,000 people would be affected.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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