Colombian president on UK state visit as peace deal teeters

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2016 9:49 AM
Colombian president on UK state visit as peace deal teeters

LONDON (AP) — Colombia's president received a ceremonial military welcome at the start of a state visit to Britain on Tuesday — while at home his government tries to salvage a deal to end decades of violence.

Juan Manuel Santos was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip at Horse Guards Parade, a parade-ground in the heart of London.

The band of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards played Colombia's national anthem, and Santos inspected an honor guard of troops clad in gray greatcoats and bearskin hats.

After the ceremony the royals and their guests traveled by horse-drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace, where Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos, will stay. The three-day state visit is the first to Britain by a Colombian leader.

Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for striking a deal with Colombia's main rebel group to end the South American country's civil war, which has killed more than 200,000 people. But the government's peace pact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was narrowly rejected by voters in an Oct. 2 referendum.

Santos told Britain's Observer newspaper that he was "working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with my team to get another agreement."

"This uncertainty is very risky, because anything could happen that could really make the process explode," he said.

Santos will address lawmakers at Britain's Parliament later Tuesday and hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing St. on Wednesday.

He will also travel to Northern Ireland, where a decades-long civil conflict was ended through political negotiation in the 1990s.