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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by President Obama and President Santos of Colombia before Bilateral Meeting

ATLAPA Convention Center
Panama City, Panama

12:34 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It is a great pleasure to once again see my good friend, President Santos, and his delegation.  We’ve had two occasions now to visit Colombia, and I so appreciated the hospitality as well as the people there.  And more importantly, the cooperation between our countries, the friendship between our countries has been producing significant results not just for the United States and Colombia through things like our trade agreement, but also regionally, through participation on a number of issues, of challenges that we face.

I want to congratulate President Santos on his extraordinary efforts to bring about an end to a conflict that has plagued Colombia for too long.  The United States is very proud to support that effort.  I’ve deployed an envoy, Bernie Aronson, with deep experience in the region, to be supportive of President Santos’s efforts.

As you’ve heard I think from many in the plenary, this is an issue that many people care deeply about.  It entails some risks. It’s hard.  But President Santos I believe is doing the right thing.  And we want to be as helpful as we can in that process.

I also want to congratulate Colombia on what it’s been able to achieve economically, as well as with respect to security.  The United States, I think, played an important role in that process through Plan Colombia, although ultimately the progress is due to the strength and commitment and determination of the Colombian people.

So I look forward to hearing more about your plans going forward, and I appreciate all the efforts of your delegation.  And I send my best wishes to the people of Colombia.  Thank you again for the wonderful visits that I’ve been able to have.

PRESIDENT SANTOS:  Thank you very much, President Obama.  It’s a great pleasure to see you again. 

The relations between the U.S. and Colombia I think are at the best level ever.  We are proud to be considered your strategic partner.  We have been working on many issues.  Before, we concentrated on only human rights, violence, terrorism, drugs. But today we have a very, very rich agenda of education, of cooperation in technology, sports, et cetera.  It’s a very, very rich agenda, and we are very enthusiastic about moving on all those issues, and very grateful for the support you have given us in the peace process. 

You’ve understood -- since the very beginning, you were (inaudible) be informed of our tensions and there supporting us since the very beginning.  (Inaudible.)  And the appointment of a special envoy has a special significance because that means we (inaudible) the whole process to the hemisphere. 

So we hope we continue to have that support.  This, in a way, is the cherry on the cake.  The efforts that we have been doing jointly, Plan Colombia, is a great effort that is very successful.  And if we finish that peace agreement and strengthen our democracy, we will be (inaudible) the best way possible. 

And I want to congratulate you again for your courage for taking the step to normalize relations with Cuba.  As we have seen at this summit, it’s the most important event.  This will have very positive repercussions in the relations between North America and Latin America and the Caribbean.  Everybody south of the Rio Grande has appreciated this tremendous step and is very enthusiastic about what this is going to mean for the future of our relations.

So I hope that we can continue to work together the way we have been working.  And I look forward to our conversations after the press and the public leave.  

Thank you.

12:40 P.M. EST