The Colombian goverment and the country’s largest and longest-standing rebel group FARC meet again on Wednesday in Havana, Cuba, to initiate the second round of formal peace talks aimed at ending Latin America’s longest ongoing armed conflict.
“This is not a dialogue to prolong the conflict, this is a dialogue to end the conflict,” said the government’s lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, on Tuesday. “This process has its rhythms and its stages. This stage is aimed at ending the conflict by concluding agreements [so we can] enter a phase of compliance with them [implementation stage].”
“This is what guides the government’s role…six points…comprehensive agricultural development…political participation, the end of the conflict, including surrender of weapons by the FARC and their return to civil life…solving the problem of illicit drugs, the issue of victims, and the implementation, verification and countersignature of the Agreement,” de la Calle said before boarding a plane back to Cuba.
After inaugurating this, the fourth attempt at peace talks with FARC, in Norway back in October, negotiations moved to Havana where the first round of formal peace talks concluded on November 19.
While polls indicated that public optimism regarding the outcome of the talks has dropped since negotiations began, both the government and the FARC have expressed optimism in the possibility of ending the oldest armed conflict on the continent.
“Up until now we have had good results. There has been agreement,” said senior FARC negotiator, “Jesus Santrich.”
“Progress has been on target,” said Humberto de la Calle, the government’s lead negotiator.
“This…should last no longer…than November of next year at the latest,” President Juan Manuel Santos said last week.
As the first formal round of talks concluded last week, the government announced they would hold a series of public forums in Bogota related to the first point on the agenda — agricultural reform. The December 17, 18 and 19 forums will give citizens the opportunity to get involved in the peace process, something both sides have agreed is important for sustaining peace. Colombia’s congress has already held the first of many regional forums.
The FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire when talks began, but the government — weary the rebels may use a government ceasefire to regroup militarily as they have in previous peace talks — has said time and again that it will continue military operations. Armed forces said Monday they had killed at least 20 guerrillas while raiding an insurgent camp.
This round of talks will run until December 14.