Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Wednesday his willingness to resolve the ongoing crisis in peace talks with FARC rebels and return to the negotiation table as soon as it’s possible.
From Ataco, Tolima, south of Bogota, Santos reaffirmed that “we need to abandon our weapons, the violence and end this armed conflict. That is why I hope this impasse that has appeared in the Havana negotiations will be resolved soon.”
Santos’ words can be interpreted as declaration of readiness to continue the peace process despite recent setbacks including the surprising FARC capture of an army general in the west of the country.
The Colombian president expressed his gratitude to the Cuban and Norwegian delegations for their help in alleviating the crisis which started when FARC guerrillas captured a National Army General Ruben Dario Alzate last Sunday.
“They [Cuba and Norway] have come to help us find a solution to the impasse, so that we can resume what we have been waiting for – the negotiations to end this absurd conflict, the war that has bled the country dry,” said Santos.
The president was in Tolima on the occasion of land restitution processes which see some of the victims of the Colombian conflict recover their long lost land. Santos referred to the fact by stating that Tolima region represents the origins of the conflict from 50 years ago. He also emphasized the importance of reparations for victims of the war, one of the points negotiated during the talks in Havana before suspension.
The head of the Colombian state used the opportunity to reiterate the advancements of the peace process so far.
“Two years ago the talks have started between the representatives of FARC and the Government to see if we can agree on a common agenda. We have made unprecedented progress towards peace (…). The reality is that we have come so far that we can already see the end of the conflict,” reaffirmed Santos.
FARC rebels in the west of Colombia captured an army general, the highest ranking officer ever detained by the guerrillas in their 50-year history, on Sunday.
Santos confirmed Monday night that he will continue to suspend the peace negotiations until the three FARC hostages have been safely returned to their homes.
Earlier on Wednesday, FARC spokesmen announced that the decision to release a captured Colombian general will be made by the FARC’s Supreme leader.
“We are not the ones to give this order. The FARC secretariat, through its commander, will assume this matter,” said FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez to the reporters.
Santos didn’t refer to the guerrilla’s latest statement.
The current president of Colombia has built his candidacy on bringing peace to the country, securing second term earlier this year against a right-wing opponent, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who threatened to abandoned the talks and finish the FARC on the battlefield.