Noble Prize winner Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos began a world tour visiting UK, Portugal and the Middle East after he had achieved peace in his country by signing a deal with the Colombian rebel movement FARC.
Asharq Al-Awsat met with him during his stay in London, UK, and asked him about the Colombian peace agreement, Venezuelan crisis, his view on the Arab world, and his future plans after his presidential term is over.
During the interview, Santos called upon Arab and Saudi investors to invest in his country and benefit from its natural resources as well as the Pacific Alliance, which Colombia is a member in.
President Santos stated a year had passed since his country signed an agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to end 50 years of conflict, and the country will use the weapons to build a statue representing peace. He added that the most important thing to him was the deal to end the bloody clashes in the country.
Santos explained that implementation of peace requires time, however it is important that tolerance and peace are spread in a society that lived in struggle for over 50 years.
He assured that every conflict can be solved if there is a will.
"People in my country never expected the armed conflict to come to an end. We succeeded in achieving the impossible," Santos said.
As a Nobel Prize winner, Santos stated that he can't give advice to anyone, not even the Arab world. He explained that each conflict is different, but the most important thing is to legalize a peace process between warring parties and through the international community. He added that any battle will affect the region within, and it is crucial to include the region in any solution.
"Any solution must be agreed upon by all its parties. We are not perfect and not always right, but we can do the right thing and end wars," Santos stated, adding that: "Wars are costly and peace is crucial even if not complete."
When asked about important things that any leader should not forget in achieving peace, Santos said that it is vital to determine a goal beforehand and they should be aware that there will be obstacles on the way. He added that some will want to continue with the war for personal interests, but that shouldn't mean that "I lose my way. I should know that my goal is to achieve peace."
Concerning the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia, and whether he agrees with FARC's leader Timochenko's candidacy, Santos said that he fought and won over Timochenko in the field and worked with him in Cuba to achieve peace. However, he doesn't expect him to win the elections and he also doesn't agree with many of his traditional ideas.
"I have signed a peace deal with him that ensures his rights to go into the political field within the framework of democracy," confirmed Santos.
He explained that given the uniqueness of the peace deal, Timochenko will be subject to the "transitional justice" and not the traditional law. So, he will be able to be politically active while answering to his charges based on that justice.
"For the first time, a rebel movement becomes subject to Rome Statute, and thus we had to create some incentives to involve them in the politics," he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He also added that FARC members will be protected by the police and army.
President Santos stated that the agreement can't be altered even with the new president. He assured that this agreement had been passed by the Colombian Congress and the Constitutional Court which determined its duration for three terms of governments.
Santos will soon be touring the Middle East which he hopes to consolidate the relations between Colombia and Arab states. He added that Colombia needs resources from the Arab world, adding that there are several investing opportunities in Latin America and Colombia.
When asked what makes Colombia special for investments, Santos said that his country is stable and enjoys unprecedented growth rates. He stated that out of all Latin countries, Colombia received 7.5 percent foreign investments because of its capabilities and infrastructure that encourages any investor.
For that, Santos called upon Saudi investors to invest in Colombia which has natural resources and a growing energy sector, especially alternative energy. He also stated that there are about 50 million citizen in Colombia which is also member of the Pacific Alliance including Chile, Mexico and Peru.
The president will visit UAE soon, and he informed Asharq Al-Awsat that he will be signing several deals and agreement during his visit.
Speaking about Venezuela, Santos previously described it as a "nightmare". He hoped he had a magic wand that could fix his neighboring country's complicated situation.
"I am very concerned about the situation in Venezuela. We share over 2,000 kilometers border and many Venezuelans are escaping to Colombia looking for a better life," Santos said.
He stated that the current regime destroyed the democracy and legitimacy in the country, hoping there were a peaceful solution for this problem.
Santos confirmed that he pursue achieving peace in the region, adding that the situation in Venezuela affects the whole region.
Santos' term will soon be over and for his post-presidency plans, the president denied the allegations he had bought a house in London, saying that although he loves the city a lot, he doesn't plan to live outside his country. He added that he has plans to live with his family in Columbia and working in teaching, thus not creating any problems for the new president.
"I don't want to cause problems to anyone and I will not interfere in the new government's work," insisted Santos.
When asked if he would consider writing his memoirs, President Santos said: "Of course! I have worked in journalism and I love to write."