During Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar’s visit to Berlin on Friday (26 February), Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier promised further German support for the peace process in Colombia. Germany is currently providing assistance in several fields, including transitional justice and the culture of remembrance.
The two Foreign Ministers held discussions in Colombia a year ago. This was the return visit to Berlin by Colombian Foreign Minister Holguín. The first issue she raised was Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s meeting with the indigenous Kogi people in northern Colombia. Holguín expressed her thanks for Germany’s support for the indigenous coffee growers. It always came to mind, she said, whenever she saw Kogi coffee when she was shopping in Bogotá.
To promote the Kogi people’s economic independence, the German Embassy is supporting a coffee growing project. In 2015 it provided new coffee processing machines. Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited the Kogi coffee processing centre in Mingueo and inaugurated the new equipment.
Peace for Colombia through dialogue
The main focus of the intensive discussion between Steinmeier and Holguín in Berlin was the Colombian peace process. Steinmeier emphasised that he was still “impressed by the way you deal with your country’s history”, which had been marked by violence for many decades. He continued:
We are impressed by the resolve with which you and your Government have furthered the process to settle the conflict and reach an agreement with the Farc guerilla organisation over the last few years.
Steinmeier also praised the “major progress” attained in December 2015, when the parties to the conflict reached agreement in Havana on the legal consequences of the past. The German people, Steinmeier added, were also “deeply moved” by the peace process in Colombia.
This was one reason why the German side was following the peace process closely. The German Special Envoy, MP Tom Koenigs, had travelled to Colombia for political talks three times to date. Germany particularly wanted to help in the field of transitional justice and the culture of remembrance, Steinmeier stressed. Just now, one project is the development of a peace institute in Bogotá.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier wished Colombia well as it takes the remaining steps towards a peace agreement, saying:
We are all keeping our fingers crossed for this last stage on the way to the signing of a final agreement in the early summer.
Syria: Hope for a ceasefire
On the fringes of his meeting with Holguín, Steinmeier expressed the hope that the agreement on a ceasefire in Syria from 11 p.m. CET on Friday (26 February) would calm the situation in the country. After all, the ceasefire had been accepted not only by Russia and the US, but also by the Syrian Government and opposition, Steinmeier said in Berlin.
With regard to the humanitarian situation, Steinmeier spoke of “first encouraging signs of success”:
After a long time, we are finally seeing progress in the humanitarian sphere in Syria. During the last few days, it has already been possible to reach and get supplies to 120,000 people in besieged towns. We want the authorisations for aid deliveries to be issued more quickly and we want even more besieged towns and villages to be reached.
Germany is making a substantial contribution to these aid supplies. Agreement on deliveries by air, particularly to besieged areas, was reached at the meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Munich two weeks ago.
Steinmeier then stressed he was “extremely concerned” by reports that the regime in Damascus is again dropping barrel bombs on the town of Daraya. “We urge the Syrian regime to stop attacks on the civilian population. All parties to the conflict are called upon to refrain from taking any steps which could jeopardise the ceasefire so shortly before it comes into effect.”