Peace and prosperity were the two main agenda items when the First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster and the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness welcomed Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos to Stormont Castle.
Speaking after meeting the President, First Minister, Arlene Foster said:“I welcome and extend the hand of friendship to President Santos, and the visiting delegation on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
“The Colombian Peace Process is a significant priority for their Government and I know many organisations and people across Northern Ireland have helped in nudging forward the path to peace. It is a challenging path but one worth travelling.
“It is therefore very significant for us to be associated with a State Visit to the United Kingdom and, just as Her Majesty The Queen said at Tuesday’s State Banquet at Buckingham Palace, Northern Ireland is now beginning to realise its full potential.
“I hope this visit to Northern Ireland will encourage collaboration, partnership and renewed engagement between our respective business sectors.
“The Northern Ireland Executive is committed to establishing a vibrant and sustainable local economy. Our continued economic success will come through a renewed focus on exports so promoting international sales is a key priority and I am confident our relationship with the Colombian market will be one that continues to grow.
“I wish President Santos well in all his efforts to restore the peaceful and prosperous times the Colombian people deserve.”
The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “It is an immense personal honour for me to welcome the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos here today.
“In 2014 I visited Bogota at the invitation of President Santos and we discussed our respective peace processes and personal experiences. Many other political representatives, trade unionists and activists from here have been involved in assisting the Colombian peace process. Bogota may be many miles from the Bogside but our journey to peace offers a beacon of hope to people around the world of what can be achieved.
“As well as discussing political issues we discussed economic opportunities. Growing exports is a key focus for our Executive and there are real opportunities to trade with Colombia across a wide range of sectors, including material handling, medical products, construction, aerospace and ICT.
“I still believe that between the Colombian Government and FARC there is a very real prospect of an enduring agreement that will benefit all the people of Colombia. Visits like today from the President of Colombia to the north of Ireland will further develop and deepen our relationship. President Santos and all the people of Colombia can count on our continued support. All conflicts are unique but with political will and patience there is a different way, a better way.”
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