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In Colombia, Foreign Minister Steinmeier urges reconciliation

Germany will accompany the peace process, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said in Colombia. He was opening the German-Colombian Peace Institute and visiting one of the 26 centers for demobilized FARC rebels.

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Steinmeier praises Colombia peace process

As part of his visit to Colombia, Steinmeier traveled out to a remote part of the South American country where he spent time at one of the 26 centers set up to house fighters with the FARC rebel group. The militants are demobilizing over a six-month period following the peace agreement signed between the government and FARC rebels last November.

The minister said that confidence between the parties involved in the peace accord was fundamental to reaching a successful conclusion.

"Here we are in a region far from the capital, where access is very difficult and in regions such as this there will be a test as to whether this peace agreement is going to take shape and if it will be possible to transform this country and bring it to a new reality," Steinmeier said.

"Those who know the history of the last 50 years of Colombia known that this is a region which has seen much fighting, much violence," Steinmeier commented, adding that Mesetas, and other towns and villages in the area had been bastions of the FARC rebels for decades. But today "in Colombia we are seeing a profound change," Steinmeier said.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier und Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota (Reuters)

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Ministerial exchanges

Steinmeier also met with President Juan Manuel Santos and Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin in Bogota.

Afterwards Steinmeier said the meeting showed the peace agreement was very important but its "implementation was also very important and difficult."

High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia, Sergio Jaramillo, said "while Germany may seem far away, its example is very relevant."

Jaramillo recalled that last year the former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez compared peace in Colombia "with German reunification, and I say he was completely correct." He explained that as Germany carried out its reunification process in 1990 into a single country, with the peace process "it was about integrating Colombia" and giving people in isolated regions - such as Mesetas - living conditions "similar to those enjoyed by inhabitants of large cities."

Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Bogota (Reuters/J. Saldarriaga)

Steinmeier at the San Carlos palace in Bogota

German-Colombian Peace Institute

Earlier, Steinmeier had opened the German-Colombian Peace Institute in the capital. The aim of the center is to help with reconciliation efforts in the wake of the civil war.

The institute is to support academic degrees in Colombia focusing on transdisciplinary reconciliation studies.

With a budget of 400,000 euros ($425,000) the center is to officially start its work later this year.

jm/kl (EFE, dpa)

 

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