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Mexico, US pitch measures to ease pressure on border, plan Guatemala talks

Mexico's new Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena Ibarra holds a meeting with the media in Mexico City

By Valentine Hilaire and Cassandra Garrison

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Senior Mexican, U.S. and Guatemalan officials will meet as soon as possible for talks on migration, Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena said on Monday as she set out plans aimed at reducing pressures on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Speaking after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week in Washington, Barcena said the two sides wanted to allow asylum-seekers to sign up further south for a U.S. government app used for scheduling appointments.

The step planned for the app known as CBP One aims to reduce a build-up of people on Mexico's northern border, Barcena said at a government press conference.

The minister said Mexican and U.S. officials reached 10 important agreements during their meetings.

Standardizing migration figures, combating human smuggling networks and a plan to visit Panama's perilous Darien Gap were among the Mexico-U.S. agreements set out by Barcena.

The meeting resulted in a framework comprising three main points, said Ken Salazar, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

These were tackling the root causes of migration, creating legal routes for migrants to the United States, and applying the law for those who break the rules, he told reporters.

The Darien Gap, a treacherous jungle between Colombia and Panama, saw a record 520,000 migrant crossings last year. Barcena said migrations start there, and she will meet with regional authorities to curb the trend.

She also said an investigation will be held into weapons from the U.S. Army entering Mexico, following alerts sent to the U.S. by local officials.

Reducing the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico was a major priority for the Biden administration, Salazar said. A U.S. delegation to Mexico in early February will focus talks on preventing U.S. guns reaching Mexico, he added.

"It's part of what needs to be addressed in a plan," Salazar said at a press conference. "We have a new law in the United States that makes it a serious crime for people who sell and transport arms from the U.S. to Mexico and other countries."

Guatemala earlier this month swore in its new President Bernardo Arevalo, who said both countries will need to work to stem the flow of people from Central America.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Bill Berkrot)