Jun. 4, 2013 Defense News (AFP)
BRUSSELS — Colombia cannot be considered for NATO membership but the alliance is exploring ways of boosting ties with the country, a NATO official said Tuesday after an uproar in Latin America over the possibility.
Colombia “does not meet the geographically limited membership criteria,” the official said, noting that the NATO Treaty “states that membership is open to states in the North Atlantic area.”
At the weekend, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said his country would sign a cooperation agreement this month with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with a view ultimately to membership.
On Monday, a senior US State Department official, Roberta Jacobson, said “our goal is certainly to support Colombia as being a capable and strong member of lots of different international organizations, and that might well include NATO.”
This appeared to go too far for Colombia’s neighbors, with Bolivian President Evo Morales calling the move a “provocation” and a threat to “anti-imperialist” countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua or Ecuador.
The NATO official said Tuesday the military alliance was “aware of Colombia’s interest to develop cooperation with NATO” but that there was “no immediate plan for establishing a formal partnership.”
Instead, “we are exploring the possibility of carrying out specific activities together,” the official said, citing an accord to allow the exchange of classified information with Colombia.
“The accord would be a precursor for any possible future cooperation with Colombia that allies develop through NATO,” the official added.
NATO counts 28 members in Europe and North America but has a string of security cooperation and partnership accords with many countries, such as Australia and Mongolia, but none in Latin America.