The meetings were organized by US’ ambassador to Bogota, Kevin Whitaker, whose government reportedly considers “national unity” in Colombia to be key to the country’s peace process.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC have been taking place in Havana, Cuba since November 2012 and have fiercely been criticized by Uribe, who as president led a successful US-backed military offensive against the FARC between 2002 and 2010, but has been marred by accusations of major human rights violations.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas and the chief government negotiator in Havana, Humberto de la Calle, confirmed the meetings with Uribe, saying that it was “good news for Colombia.”
For de la Calle this was an important event for Colombia which represented “an exercise in democracy, in favor of a peace process which is inclusive and connects all Colombians.”
The chief negotiator told press that this opportunity gave the government a chance to express their opinions, clarify misinformation and to receive criticisms and suggestions respectfully.
In a statement made by Uribe he explained that the duty he felt to the Colombian citizens led him to agree to meet with government officials. However, the opposition leader said that the government does not welcome criticisms, “or they distort them when they say they have accepted them.”
Uribe revealed that during the meeting he insisted on the importance of a guarantee that the FARC will cease all criminal activity should be a condition for negotiations. In addition Uribe stressed his concern that terrorists should not escape punishment.
The armed conflict in Colombia began in 1964 and has killed more than 260,000 people and displaced over 6 million.