Colombia Rebel Chief Confirms Peace Talks with Govt.إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Colombia is on course for another try at ending Latin America's last armed conflict, with confirmation Monday from the FARC leftist rebel leader that preliminary talks have taken place with the government on launching a full-blown peace process.
"We come to the table for dialogue without rancor, or arrogance," FARC leader Rodrigo Londono said in a broadcast on the Caracol radio station.
It was the first comment from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Latin America's oldest guerrilla army, since the announcement a week ago by President Santos of preliminary talks to pave the way for ending a conflict that has ground on for nearly 50 years.
Londono gave no other details. Caracol said the statement was the audio portion of a video posted on the FARC website, which was down on Monday morning.
The video includes footage of young fighters singing a rap song in favor of dialogue with the government, Caracol said.
Colombian press reports said full blown peace talks are due to begin in October, first in Norway and then continuing in Cuba.
The discussions would likely address issues such as distributing land to peasants, rebels' links to drug trafficking and the idea of reincorporating guerrilla leaders into everyday life -- many of them have been convicted of crimes against humanity, so this is a sensitive point.
The president said in his announcement that the government would not cease military operations against the FARC or reduce their presence nationwide while contacts were underway.
But some in Colombia say a ceasefire is necessary as a confidence-building measure for any peace talks to yield fruit.
Founded in 1964, the FARC are Colombia's oldest rebel group and draw their roots from anger among landless peasants in a country with a gaping divide between rich and poor.
The FARC now have about 9,200 fighters, down by half over the past decade after a series of military successes by the army, and have been driven largely into rural areas.
Colombia has seen peace talks come and go before, three times since the 1980s. The last attempt was in 2002.
The government broke those negotiations off because it said a vast area it set up as a demilitarized zone for the FARC was used by them to regroup and rebuild.
President Santos said this past weekend a long haul again lies ahead.
"Peace does not come overnight. It must be sown and nurtured," he said.
Colombian media said Sunday that the preliminary talks took place in Venezuela and Havana, and produced a six-point negotiating agenda.
Santos is half-way through a four year-term. When announcing the fledgling talks he said peace was a priority for him.
"Since the day my government took office, I have respected my constitutional obligation to seek peace, and we have undertaken exploratory talks with the FARC, to seek an end to the conflict," Santos said in a speech to the nation on August 27.