The White House on Thursday said it intends to designate Colombia as a major non-NATO ally in a strategic partnership aimed at strengthening security, ending the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing climate change. President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia celebrated the move, saying that it is a "very important diplomatic achievement."
"This signifies the most important recognition of the importance that we have built over the years," Duque told CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. "This will allow Colombia to have access to investment and trade and security in matters that will strengthen our relationship and protect Colombia."
The designation will add Colombia to a growing list of more than a dozen major non-NATO ally countries, and will provide certain defense trade and security cooperation privileges to Colombia, according to the U.S. Department of State.
The White House said it made the designation due to "Colombia's significant contributions as a NATO Global Partner, its commitment to NATO's mission to promote democratic values and commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes, and its rejection of Russia's unprovoked and unjustifiable aggression against Ukraine."
Duque, who met with President Biden at the White House Thursday, said the move will allow Colombia to receive additional support in areas including climate action and refugee protection as the country deals with "the most complex migration crisis in Latin America in recent history."
He called his meeting with Mr. Biden "transparent" and "open."
In a joint statement Thursday, the two leaders said that the two countries have "recognized the need for our governments to demonstrate that democracy can deliver to improve the lives of our citizens."
Colombia's president said neighboring country— one of Russia's top allies in Latin America — should return to democracy. He called the country's president, Nicolás Maduro, a dictator.
"Venezuela needs to engage that path, otherwise the tragedy that they are living is going to continue," he said regarding a democratic transition.
Mr. Biden and Duque also said they have agreed to prioritize investments in initiatives focused on areas including gender equity and digital connectivity, committed themselves to "expanding longstanding bilateral security cooperation" and will continue efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
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