Colombia's Santos to visit N. Ireland to study peace process
London (AFP) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, will visit Northern Ireland in November to learn about its peace process, the Colombian embassy said on Thursday.
Santos, who is struggling to implement his peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after it was rejected by voters, will visit the British-ruled region on November 2.
The embassy said in a statement that the Colombian leader's visit was due to Northern Ireland's "importance as a model of peace and reconciliation".
Santos will meet officials and visit the Girdwood community centre in north Belfast on November 3 to discuss peace and reconciliation with local residents.
His state visit to Britain at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II will begin on November 1.
Northern Ireland was riven by three decades of conflict which largely ended with the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, although there are still sectarian tensions and paramilitary activity.
More than 3,500 people died in the conflict.
Two architects of the peace process -- David Trimble, a Protestant from the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and John Hume of the mainly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) -- were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.
Santos is seeking a solution to the political fallout caused by voters who rejected the peace accord negotiated between the FARC and the government.
Santos -- who has staked his legacy on making peace -- had extended the army's ceasefire to December 31 if no solution to the impasse was found by then.
The FARC, which had criticised Santos' deadline, has also confirmed its willingness to continue negotiations and maintain a bilateral ceasefire.
The Colombian leader won the Nobel Peace Prize just a few days after voters shot down the historic accord in a referendum that would have ended more than 52 years of conflict.
The prize appeared to encourage the peacemakers.
Since the accord's rejection, Santos has held marathon talks with political figures including the country's former president Alvaro Uribe -- who led opposition to the agreement -- as well as religious leaders and victims of the armed conflict.