Barack Obama photo

Remarks Prior to a Meeting With President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon of Colombia in New York City

September 21, 2016

President Obama. It is a great pleasure to welcome my good friend, President Santos, and his delegation, so we have a chance to visit again. This is the first time that I'm seeing him in person since the historic agreement that was achieved in Colombia, ending the longest war in Latin America and providing an opportunity for Colombia to open an entirely new chapter of its history.

I could not be more supportive of these efforts. The American people welcome these efforts. 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 through a referendum in order for it to move forward. But I think this is an achievement of historic proportions. It ultimately will be good for the region, as well as the people of Colombia. It took a lot of courage and a lot of hard work by a lot of people. And we are very proud to have played a modest part in helping the dialogue go forward.

John Kerry is going to be visiting Colombia on Monday, and my understanding is, he's going to be taking a bipartisan group of congressional Members so that they can help to witness the amazing changes that are going to be taking place. And I also want to just thank President Santos and his delegation for the continued cooperation on a wide range of regional issues, including making sure that we don't slip on the progress that's been made in stamping out transnational drug organizations.

So it's a great achievement, and we're very proud of you. And congratulations.

President Santos. Thank you. Almost 6 years ago, when I decided to take this step, one of the first persons that I informed about my intentions was President Obama. And since then, he has been a great support, every day, every week asking how is it going, and supporting it in every way possible. You appointed a Special Envoy, Bernie Aronson, and he did a terrific job. The Secretary of State has been there many times, pushing the process forward.

And I wanted to give to you a special edition, 297 pages. I think it's the most comprehensive peace agreement to date, probably in history. It's every detail. But you deserve a lot of credit for this very historic agreement, which will change not only Colombia, the whole region. As you said, it is the oldest, longest, cruelest armed conflict that Latin America has had.

And thank you very much from the bottom of my heart, in the name of 50 million Colombians. President Obama, here is the result of this effort.

[At this point, President Santos presented President Obama with a ceremonial copy of the peace agreement.]

President Obama. Thank you so much. It's beautiful.

President Santos. Thank you.

President Obama. Thank you. This is—what a great gift. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. in the Holmes I room of the Lotte New York Palace hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Reps. Samuel S. Farr and James P. McGovern.

Barack Obama, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon of Colombia in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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