Spain Willing To Aid Colombia’s Peace Process
By Dialogo April 29, 2009Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Colombia's Alvaro Uribe that Spain is ready to offer Bogota whatever help it can in settling the Andean nation's decades-old internal conflict. The Colombian president began a two-day official visit to Spain. The Spanish government announced that during the meeting, Zapatero expressed to Uribe "the solidarity of Spain in the struggle against violence and drug trafficking" and Madrid's willingness "to continue cooperating, if Colombian authorities feel the same way, in the ... peace processes." Spain is collaborating with Norway and Switzerland in the dialogue with Colombia's ELN rebel group and is participating with Switzerland and France in the mediation process for the release of hostages with the larger FARC insurgency. Uribe and Zapatero discussed the international financial crisis, the regional integration processes in Latin America and the progress in negotiations for the association agreement between the European Union and certain Andean countries. The swine flu that is affecting several countries, particularly Mexico, was also dealt with by the two leaders. Spanish officials called bilateral relations "excellent," while Uribe said ties between Colombia and Spain are "optimal: they have been and our hope is that they continue on that course." The Colombian leader had an intense day on Tuesday, during which he visited the Spanish Parliament and gave a speech at the New Economic Forum in Madrid. On Wednesday morning, he will meet with a group of businessmen and will also get together with the leader of Spain's main opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy. Uribe, who is accompanied by his wife on the trip, will conclude his visit on Wednesday with a luncheon hosted by King Juan Carlos, where Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, will also be in attendance. Spain is the second-largest foreign investor in Colombia, with 9.4 percent of the total such investment, exceeded only by the United States.