Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC “must pay” for crimes committed during it’s half-a-century war against the State, the chief negotiator of the government said Sunday when resuming peace talks.
The talks had come under fire from conservative opponents after a FARC attack on an army unit killed 15 soldiers. Presidential candidates loyal to former President Alvaro Uribe had called for a suspension of talks until the FARC agreed to a unilateral ceasefire.
“A lot of Colombians don’t understand why we are talking while the attacks of armed groups continue,” said government negotiator Humberto de la Calle at a press conference, adding that “one must remember that the government’s decision not to agree with a ceasefire … is for a number of reasons: What we want is to end the war, not extend it. We are precisely looking for an agreement to end the war, so that there is no more violence, to avoid more absurd deaths.”
“At the same time, the government and the security forces continue to fulfill their constitutional duty and responsibility in all of the national territory in defense of the Colombian people, our democracy and the heritage of the nation,” added the negotiator.
“Consequently, these talks — as President [Juan Manuel] Santos said this week — are held in the middle of the conflict. There is no ceasefire,” De la Calle explained.
In the same speech, De la Calle assured the FARC “will be held accountable for all that has happened in the conflict.”
The FARC have always refused to publicly accept going to jail for crimes committed during Colombia’s nearly 50-year-old armed conflict.
The government and the guerrillas on Sunday began a new round of talks on the possible political participation of the rebels after having discussed proposals on the subject separately for a few weeks. The political participation is the second of five points on the peace talks agenda that seek to end the political violence that cost the lives of more than 220,000 Colombians since 1958.
- Press release government peace negotiation commission