May 26 (UPI) -- Columbia will become the first Latin American country to be part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its president said.
An announcement by Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos Friday said Colombia joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, known as OECD, and starting next week, will become a "global partner" of NATO.
"We will formalize in Brussels next week -- and this is very important -- the entry of Colombia into NATO in the category of global partner, we will be the only country in Latin America with this privilege," the president said in a televised news address.
Santos, who will leave office this year, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 after reaching a deal to end one of the longest-running wars in Latin America, a conflict that killed more than 260,000 people and displaced millions.
Colombia is the 37th OECD member nation and the third Latin American member, alongside Mexico and Chile.
Santos said it took seven years of technical studies and consideration for Columbia to be admitted into the organization.
In recent years, the United States recognized Colombia's efforts to expand welfare programs and education and bring peace to the country after a half-century of internal conflict.
"Today, we took another very important step towards a better future. It's like graduating from the best university, but with the commitment to continue studying and maintain good grades for the rest of our lives," Santos said.