Colombia agrees to hold peace talks with Farc rebels

August 28, 2012

BBC News

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed his government is holding exploratory talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the Farc.

In an address on state TV, Mr Santos said he was fulfilling his “duty to seek peace”. Media reports say a deal on further talks was reached in Cuba.

The Farc have been fighting the Colombian government since 1964.

The president said he was also open to a dialogue with Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the ELN.

Learning from mistakes

Mr Santos gave no details about the exploratory talks with the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

According to the regional media network Telesur negotiators from the two sides signed a preliminary agreement in the Cuban capital, Havana, on Monday.

Telesur said the first round of peace talks would be held in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on 5 October. Negotiators would then continue holding talks in Havana, it added.

Referring to previous failed talks with the Farc during the government of then-president Andres Pastrana, Mr Santos said his government had “learned from the mistakes committed in the past”.

Mr Santos said military operations would continue and that “each centimetre of the country would have a military presence”.

As part of the peace talks launched in 1998, Mr Pastrana had granted the Farc a safe haven the size of Switzerland in the south-east to help move peace talks along.

The zone was off-limits to the army and the rebels used it to train and regroup.

Mr Pastrana ordered the rebels out of their safe haven after the peace talks failed in February 2002, but part of the area remains a rebel stronghold to this day.

Farc approaches

Last August, the Farc leader at the time, Alfonso Cano, said the group was ready for peace negotiations.

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