Remarks With Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Cartagena, Colombia
September 26, 2016

PRESIDENT SANTOS: Let me start by saying welcome to you, Secretary Kerry, and others on your team. You know that the presence here of a bipartisan delegation is very important because you can also feel very proud that you had a very important stake in this process and the U.S. has been supportive in this process since the very beginning.

You can also claim part of the success, as I said before, to the Plan Colombia between Paz Colombia – that was a “sharing of the cake” of a bipartisan foreign policy initiative that was very successful, and we are starting another phase to a much more humane and social aspect. And I hope that we can be as successful in this new phase as the one – as you – as we were in the old phase, because you personally, Secretary Kerry, with the president pushing the process, to your very constructive and efficient envoy Bernie Aronson, who is not only a great supporter but very creative. He knows when to pull the strings and when to sort of withdraw; very good as an envoy.

And so we all are very happy. As you know, this is the latest – the last of the armed conflicts in the whole hemisphere, and I think that now we can start addressing other type of challenges that we have. Our two nations have a special relation. I hope we can continue that special relation and as you are. I am very grateful that you had the time to come to Cartagena in the presence of this (inaudible) delegation on this historic day for Colombia.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. President, thank you. It is an historic day for Colombia, and every one of us are very, very proud to be here with you and to share it. We’re very honored to share it with you. And from the first day you and I visited after I became Secretary and you said, “I think we have a chance and we need your help,” I am pleased to say that we followed through on that, and President Obama was willing to appoint Bernie, and we have worked very effectively together.

As you know, the hard work – a lot of hard work’s been accomplished, but we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. And I want you to know the United States is very committed to being there with you, not just at the beginning – even before the beginning with Plan Colombia – but now as people will look to see the result. So the demining initiative which we’re pleased to chair with Norway, we produced $105 million in New York last week. That has to begin immediately, and it’s vital to get this working, the other work we need to do to make sure that your economy and your social structure can assimilate the FARC and others who had doubts about this and come to the table. This is a big moment. So we’re committed to that. President Obama believes in the Paz Colombia, and we have, I think, $390 million to start with already in the budget when we begin to continue the peace process itself.

So look, you’ve put yourself on the line, you’ve helped to lead, you’ve been very courageous in really pushing the parties, and you’ve expended your own political capital. So we admire that and we congratulate you on a very, very special day for Colombia which we are very happy to share with you.