Northern Ireland

Juan Manuel Santos: Colombia president to travel to NI during UK state visit

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations on September 21, 2016 in New York City. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Juan Manuel Santos will make the first state visit to the UK by a president of Colombia next month

The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, is due to travel to Northern Ireland next month as part of a state visit to the UK.

President Santos won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for helping end Colombia's 52-year conflict with left-wing rebels.

During his state visit, President Santos and his wife will stay at Buckingham palace as guests of the Queen.

He will also make a one-day trip to Belfast before he leaves.

The decision to include Belfast in his itinerary will be seen as recognition of the role played by politicians and activists from Northern Ireland in assisting the talks between the Colombian government and the Farc rebels.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Juan Manuel Santos (second from left) served as defence minister under President Alvaro Uribe (third from left).

In September, President Santos and rebel leaders signed an historic agreement ending 52 years of conflict, which claimed an estimated 260,000 lives.

Earlier this month, however, the deal was narrowly rejected by the Colombian people in a referendum.

Despite that, both the government and the rebels have pledged to maintain their ceasefires and try to move the peace process forward.

During his trip to Northern Ireland, President Santos will hold talks with the first and deputy first ministers and the Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

He will also attend a civic lunch at the Titanic Centre in Belfast and tour a community hub on the peace line in the north of the city.

Before the Colombians reached agreement, a number of Stormont politicians travelled out to the Cuban capital of Havana, where talks were under way in order to share their perspectives on negotiating peace agreements.

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