The decision to release a captured Colombian general will be made by the FARC‘s highest commander, the rebel group said at a press conference delivered Wednesday in Havana.
The statement, made on the two-year anniversary of peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government, comes just days after the capture of General Ruben Dario Alzate by a FARC unit in the western state of Choco.
President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the dialogues over the incident, demanding the general be released before talks are resumed.
Ivan Marquez, a member of the FARC Secretariat, questioned in the press conference why the government would suspend the talks over what the rebels consider a prisoner of war.
The government and the majority of Colombian media consider the capture of the general and two other military personnel as a kidnapping.
The rebel group has used the incident and the government’s suspension of the talks to reiterate their call for a bilateral ceasefire, something President Santos has refused.
After two days of speculation, the FARC confirmed Tuesday that its units were in possession of the army general and two other military personnel captured in western Colombia.
The incident marks the highest-ranking capture that the FARC have managed in 50 years of armed conflict, and a significant embarrassment for the military.
FARC negotiator Pastor Alape expressed surprise in the Tuesday press conference at Santos’ decision to suspend the peace talks, reminding the government of its agreement not to let events in the country affect the negotiating table.
“What happens in Colombia should be resolved in Colombia,” said Alape, emphasizing that the government had decided to enter into negotiations in the middle of an armed conflict. The FARC wrote that they view the decision to suspend the talks as “disproportionate and incoherent” with earlier statements and agreements made by the government.
With regard to the detainees, the rebels said that they would respect their rights.
“We will respect the physical and moral integrity of our prisoners and we’re absolutely willing to guarantee their lives as far as the fury of the state allows us,” according to a communique.
The guerrillas were also critical of the military operations reportedly being carried out by the government in an attempt to locate the captured individuals.
The Interior Minister, Juan Fernando Cristo, has refused to confirm whether or not there are operations underway to rescue the FARC’s captives, urging the media to be prudent in the release of such information after rumors of such missions were reported.
President Santos made the decision to ground flights of negotiators to Havana on Sunday after news of the general’s capture broke, effectively suspending the peace talks until “events in Choco are clarified.”