NEW YORK – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday that his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, deserves “a lot of credit” for Colombia’s peace agreement between the government and the FARC guerrillas, given that he has lent “great support” to the effort from the very start of the negotiations.
Obama and Santos met at a New York hotel, as both were in the city to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
At the start of the meeting, Santos presented Obama with a copy of the peace agreement signed on Aug. 24 in Havana between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and putting an end to a war that has consumed the South American country for 52 years.
“You deserve a lot of credit for this very historic agreement,” said Santos, emphasizing that it “will change not only Colombia, (but) the whole region.”
Santos also revealed that when he began to think about a peace process a number of years ago, one of the first people he called to discuss it with was Obama.
Since then, Obama has “been a great support. Every day, every week asking how is it going, and supporting it in every way possible,” Santos emphasized.
In his own remarks at the meeting, Obama praised the “historic” peace pact, which will put an end to “the longest war in Latin America and (provides) an opportunity for Colombia to open an entirely new chapter of its history.”
“I could not be more supportive of these efforts,” said Obama, adding that “I recognize that there are going to be a lot of challenges involved in implementation, and I recognize that the people of Colombia still have to lend their voice to a referendum in order for it to move forward. But I think this is an achievement of historic proportions.”
The formal signing of the agreement will take place on Sept. 26 in the Colombian city of Cartagena at a ceremony to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and the referendum will be held on Oct. 2.
Before meeting with Obama, Santos addressed the UN General Assembly, where he proclaimed that “Colombia’s war has ended.”
The Colombian leader also delivered a copy of the peace agreement to the UN Security Council.