Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness arrived in Colombia’s capital of Bogota Tuesday to meet with President Juan Manuel Santos and discuss ongoing peace talks with the country’s oldest and largest living rebel group, the FARC.
“We are very happy to support this peace process in Colombia, because we believe that it is a serious process and we believe that what is happening in Havana suggests that an agreement will come about that will benefit all aspects of Colombia,” said Deputy First Minister McGuinness after speaking with President Santos.
Colombia’s head of state extended an invitation to the Northern Ireland official to come to Bogota to give advice on ongoing peace talks with the FARC.
“I asked [McGuiness], in this moment of the process, what advice would you give me? and he told me something that encouraged me a lot: ‘Persevere, continue, and do not let your guard down,'” said Santos.
Ireland’s more than 25 year violent struggle with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group largely ended in the mid-late 90s with the Good Friday Agreement, when a ceasefire was called as a result of a peace process that took several years to realize.
“The peace process in Ireland is now widely recognized by the international community as one of the most successful peace processes in the world today,” said McGuinness. The Northern Irishman himself is a known former IRA member, but maintains that he left the group in the early 70s.
For the experience and success of the Irish peace process and the numerous parallels between Ireland’s situation with the IRA and Colombia’s with the FARC–three IRA members were in fact arrested for allegedly training FARC members–Santos felt McGuinness would be a helpful and supportive aid.
“For some three decades we had a very bitter conflict that many people both at home and in the international community believed was incapable of resolution,” continued McGuinness.
“I think it clearly shows that where you have people with political experience, political courage and political vision for the future, the impossible can be overcome.”
“It was a very fruitful and illustrative meeting,” said Santos as he thanked the Deputy First Minister for his thoughts and encouragement.
“It shows that conflicts that have lasted for a long time still can be resolved,” concluded the president.
Colombia’s government has been publicly negotiating with the FARC in Havana, Cuba since November, 2012. The armed conflict between the two bodies has been ongoing for 50 years now, the longest running in Latin America.