Negotiators of the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, are set to meet in Cuba on Monday to discuss a “de-escalation of the conflict” and the resumption of peace talks that were suspended weeks earlier after rebels captured an army general.
The government’s chief negotiator, former Vice President Humberto de la Calle, told press on Sunday evening that part of the government’s delegation will meet with members of the FARC’s delegation to “discuss, with the guarantors on the side, an evaluation related to the recent events known to the public.”
The peace talks were suspended little over two weeks ago after General Ruben Dario Alzate was captured by FARC rebels in a western Colombian rebel stronghold. Alzate and his two companions were released Sunday.
The release had been brokered by Norway and Cuba, the two guarantor countries of the peace talks. Norwegian and Cuban delegates took part in Sunday’s hostage release operation together with “Pastor Alape,” a FARC negotiator and one of the rebel group’s top commanders.
A week earlier, FARC Secretariat member “Carlos Antonio Lozada” traveled from Cuba to Colombia to personally oversee the release of two soldiers who had been captured in combat weeks before.
The direct participation of FARC delegates in the release operations was not revealed until after the release.
Redesigning the peace talks
In a press statement, the FARC said Sunday that “now we have to redesign the game, for a peace process that has reached the level where it is right now, and which is preparing to discuss the most critical issues of peace, can not be subject to any hasty and thoughtless attitudes that postpone the advent of our reconciliation.”
The FARC have used the crisis to push a bilateral ceasefire they say is necessary to “de-escalate” the military confrontation that has increasingly put pressure on the talks.
“We invite President [Juan Manuel] Santos, with our heart in our hands and our minds full of common sense, to consider that we can no longer permit the absurd situation of carrying out dialogues of peace in the midst of war. It’s time for a bilateral ceasefire, an armistice, so that no military event can serve to justify the interruption of such a beautiful and historic task of making peace for a nation that longs for it,” said the FARC.
In his speech, De la Calle did not mention the possibility of a ceasefire, but said he was hoping to “achieve an increased effectiveness of the talks,” “decide on acts of peace,” and “seeing prompt decisions about what we have called the de-escalation of the conflict.”
The government has failed to respond to the FARC requests for a bilateral ceasefire, while is not scheduled to take place until after the negotiators agree on the warring parties’ responsibility towards victims of the conflict.
Amid fears the rebels would use a bilateral ceasefire for their military advantage, the talks began in Cuba in November 2012 while fighting in Colombia continued.
- Liberados General Alzate y acompañantes (FARC-EP)
- Declaración de Humberto de la Calle, Jefe del Equipo Negociador del Gobierno Nacional (President’s Office)