The guerrillas’ announcement was revealed Tuesday when thousands of Colombians took to the streets demanding peace and the release of all hostages.
During a speech in the capital Bogota, Santos said he is ready to define the terms of the unilateral release of more than half of the political hostages in hands of the FARC, but warned that at the same time the military will continue to attack the rebel group.
“I am willing to define the terms for this unilateral release, but while this is being done, the order to the Defense Minister and the commanders is to continue fighting the illegal armed groups,” he said.
According to Santos, he is applying a “carrot and stick” method to force the guerrillas to release all hostages, which would allow peace talks with the rebels, who have been fighting the Colombian state since 1964.
The FARC sent a letter to mediator Piedad Cordoba Tuesday saying it would release six hostages and was willing to “explore all avenues that could lead to the unilateral release of the prisoners of war” — the label it gives to captive members of the security forces.
On Tuesday, Santos said that if the FARC comply to the demand of freeing all hostages, he would like to open dialogue with the rebels “face to face, guerrilla to government” — and did not rule out that these talks could reach “an agreement relatively soon.”
According to official figures, the FARC hold 11 policemen and soldiers captive somewhere in the Colombian jungle. The guerrillas also hold an unknown amount of civilians hostage for extortion purposes.