U.S. and Colombia launched Monday the sixth round of talks relating to ending the armed conflict in the country and signing a landmark peace agreement with the FARC, with officials pledging to make Colombia landmine-free.
During a press conference in Washington following talks between delegations from the U.S. and Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that his government hoped Colombia would be free of landmines within the next five years.
“Unfortunately, Colombia is the second most mined country on the planet,” Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín noted.
She further expressed her government’s appreciation for an international demining effort in Colombia, led by the U.S. and Norway, which was announced in February with US$30 million in funding. “This has been an impulse for other countries, 24 of whom are now supporting us.”
Holguín stressed that the issue of mines in Colombia affects people’s liberty.
“When you think about mining, generally you think of people who died and people who are injured," she said. "But we are in a country where it also means freedom. Where people have been deprived of their freedom because of the landmines. That's something fundamental for Colombia's future.”
In February, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress for more than US$450 million as part of the plan Peace Colombia, a new phase in assisting the country after 15 years of the pro-militarization Plan Colombia. Included in the plan is the US$30 million for mine clearance.