Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, said on Wednesday that “if necessary” the guerrillas will agree to suspending peace talks with the government during the country’s 2014 election cycles.
Guerrilla negotiator “Andres Paris” told press in Havana, Cuba that “if necessary, we take a break from the peace process,” adding that this “can not be a unilateral decision” and thus must be agreed upon by the government’s negotiating team.
Hoy el comandante Andrés París a contestado preguntas de la prensa… espera los detalles… pic.twitter.com/mLS428fFpw
— Diálogos Paz FARC (@FARC_EPaz) October 9, 2013
Paris’ statement came a day after President Juan Manuel Santos met with member parties of his government coalition to discuss what to do with the peace talks now that the congressional elections are less than half a year away and the first round of the presidential election is scheduled for May.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, Santos asked lawmakers of his U Party to express themselves about three scenarios:
- End the peace talks
- Take a break from the talks during the elections
- Continue in spite of elections
Coalition against ending peace talks
U Party senator Armando Benedetti told newspaper El Especador that the majority of the coalition congressmen were against pulling the plug from the talks that, if successful, would end almost 50 years of guerrilla violence.
Following the meeting, Santos called on the guerrillas to accelerate talks and avoid an increase in skepticism about the effectiveness of the negotiations.
“I say again to the FARC: accelerate this process. This is important for the process itself. We need to move, we need to reach agreements, we can not continue indefinitely postponing decisions…The Colombian people will gradually increase their skepticism, and that’s bad for the pursuit of peace,” he affirmed.
FARC claims progress
However, according to Paris, the talks are progressing and the rebel negotiators are “nailed” to the negotiations table.
“There is speed in the process,” insisted the rebel leader.
Peace talks between the FARC and Colombia have been going on since November, 2012, and thus far, only one point — agrarian reform — has been officially agreed upon of the lengthy six point agenda.
When talks began, Santos said there was a one-year ultimatum for both warring parties to come to an agreement about the end of the conflict that has killed at least 220,000 Colombians since 1964. However, the government later said there was no fixed deadline.