Colombian president in France seeking post conflict support

BOGOTA - President Juan Manuel Santos is meeting with his French counterpart and other officials in Paris this week seeking support for an eventual peace agreement and a post conflict scenario for Colombia.

In a whistle-stop visit to France on Jan. 26-27, Santos used the event to remind French President Francois Hollande of his country’s commitment to support Colombia’s peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC guerrillas, and for the post conflict period. He also expressed his solidarity with France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. 

“We are going to require political support as it will be important to take decisions which will allow us to execute peace with justice and support in the case of the post conflict,” said Santos at a summit between the two premiers. 

Santos and Hollande last met in November 2014 when he conducted a tour of several European nations to garner international support for and to explain the current status of the ongoing peace dialogues with the FARC in Havana. 

“I am pleased to receive the visit of a head of state who has opted for peace for his country,” said Hollande. “He has decided to open the negotiations with the FARC and work courageously so that they come to a positive conclusion.”  

With reports published Monday by the Colombian Fiscal General’s Office that an eventual post-conflict situation and mechanisms required to set it up in Colombia would cost an estimated $1 billion (2.7 billion pesos), Santos’ official visit to France couldn’t come at a more opportune time.  

“His visit suggests that this is the ideal moment to establish a genuine cooperation between our two countries,” said Hollande, noting that Colombia has, in a few short years, climbed from the sixth ranked South American economy to third. “France and French businesses wish to accompany Colombia in this dynamic,” Hollande added. 

The political and economic relationships between the two countries are in ascendance as documents released on the Colombian presidential website illustrate the necessity of a visit to France. Between 2004 and 2013 commercial agreements between France and Colombia have more than tripled and there are at least 140 French companies doing business in Colombia. With a peace agreement, this number is expected to increase. 

“After 50 years of war we are, finally, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The most difficult points on the agenda remain to be addressed, but we have advanced far enough to be able to be optimistic that these agreements will be achieved,” said Santos. 

The peace dialogues with the FARC began in November 2012 and have addressed the issues of agricultural reform, political participation and illicit drugs. To this end, Hollande has suggested the creation of a strategic committee to speed along the process and to aid in matters of urban mobility, rural development and climate change mitigation. 

The peace dialogues, paused for Christmas and New Year, are expected to recommence Feb. 2.

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