The Colombian government and FARC rebels announced Thursday the official beginning of a “serious, dignified and efficient” process that should lead to the end of the country’s half a century armed conflict.
After months of anticipation, phase two of the peace process between the Colombian government and guerrilla group FARC began Thursday in Oslo.
Speaking from the Hurdal Hotel, 30 miles north of the Norwegian capital Oslo, officials from the Norwegian government formally opened the peace talks.
Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle spoke first, thanking Cuba, Venezuela and Chile for their help.
The idea of the talks, “is not that the FARC lay down their ideas, but that they express them without the use of weapons,” said the government’s lead negotiator.
De la Calle argued peace is achievable if the, “process is dignified, realistic and effective.”
“A transformation of social reality is underway in Colombia,” said de la Calle in a measured performance. “We have considered mechanisms for citizens to participate with their proposals. There is a new Colombia, people are more aware of their rights…our fellow citizens are not willing to endure delays or tricks.”
In reference to the failed peace talks ten years ago, during the presidency of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002), de la Calle assured the press, “the process that starts today will be different from the past.”
The government also confirmed phase three of the negotiations — planned to begin after the implementation of a then-signed peace deal and ceasefire — is set to start on November 15, in the Cuban capital of Havana.
Ivan Marquez, lead negotiator for FARC, followed de la Calle with a fiery speech saying, “We have come to Oslo with a collective dream of peace.”
“We must trace the path of a peaceful political solution that addresses the problems that caused the conflict. We seek a political solution to the civil war that is destroying Colombia,” declared an animated Marquez.
The FARC delegate reiterated that peace means more than mere demobilization, citing myriad problems in Colombian society that need fixing, such as the asymmetric national economy.
After a series of delays, the government and rebel negotiating teams arrived at the Gardermoen military airport Wednesday after which the delegations were taken to Hurdal hotel just north of the Norwegian capital.
Representatives of the president’s administration had been involved in “exploratory talks” with the FARC since February regarding a negotiated end to Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.
The talks with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos are the first in ten years.