release from Embassy of Colombia to the United States, February 13, 2001
MINISTER MEETS WITH SECRETARY OF STATE POWELL
February 13, 2001
of Foreign Affairs, Guillermo Fernández de Soto, met today with
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, to discuss the current
peace process in Colombia and bilateral relations between Colombia and
the United States.
de Soto took the opportunity of the meeting to brief Secretary Powell
on the specifics of last week's two days of negotiations between President
Andrés Pastrana and Manuel Marulanda, leader of the FARC, the largest
guerrilla organization in Colombia. Both sides agreed that last week's
meeting was an important initiative to revitalize the Colombia peace process,
and toward finding a political solution to bring an end to violence and
armed conflict in the country.
de Soto emphasized that bilateral relations between Colombia and the United
States are as important now as at any time in the past. He pledged Colombia's
continued commitment to fighting narco-trafficking and briefed Secretary
Powell on the results of aerial spraying and voluntary eradication programs
that began in December 2000, with support from the United States. Minister
Fernández de Soto told Secretary Powell that nearly 30,000 hectares
(equivalent to 74,100 acres) of coca have been sprayed by Colombian authorities
over the past six weeks in the Putumayo state in the southern part of
the country. The Minister also said that a series of alternative development
and social programs have begun in Putumayo.
de Soto also discussed the importance of expanding trade and commercial
relations between Colombia and the United States as an important element
in promoting peace, fighting narco-trafficking and encouraging regional
integration. The Minister discussed the need for Colombia and the United
States to renew and enhance the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) this
year, which is due to expire in December. Minister Fernández de
Soto said an enhanced ATPA would help the Andean region and Colombia successfully
fight narco-trafficking activities and improve economic conditions in
all the Andean countries.
Today's meeting was
the first high-level discussion between the Bush Administration and the
Colombian Government. President Pastrana and President Bush are scheduled
to meet in Washington on Tuesday, February 27, 2001.