BOGOTA – Peace talks between Colombia’s government and the largest FARC dissident group managed to get the rebels to suspend kidnappings, free 10 hostages, and reduce clashes with the country’s military in under three months, a government negotiator said on Friday.
The government of leftist President Gustavo Petro wants to achieve “total peace” in the Andean country in a bid to end a six decades long internal armed conflict that has left more than 450,000 dead.
The government began negotiations with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) – a dissident group of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – in October. It also agreed to a ceasefire that both parties will agree to extend this month, Camilo Gonzalez, coordinator for the government’s negotiating team with the EMC, said in an interview.
“We have important advances during this period,” Gonzalez said, adding that forced confinements and displacements of civilians by the EMC have also fallen.
However, battles between the EMC and Colombia’s other illegal armed groups have risen as they fight for control of areas used for illicit economies such as drug trafficking and illegal mining, Gonzalez said.
“They clash atrociously,” he added.
Regional and multilateral ceasefires must be agreed to reduce the intensity of the fighting and protect civilian populations caught in the crossfire, Gonzalez said.
The next cycle of talks between the government and the EMC, to be held in Bogota from Jan. 9 to Jan. 20 will include sensitive issues such as reducing deforestation and respect for the environment.
Negotiations must close with the EMC laying down its weapons and suspending kidnapping and extortion definitively, Gonzalez said.
Colombia’s government is also negotiating with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group, with which it is also observing a ceasefire.
It has not managed to begin talks with the Segunda Marquetalia, another FARC dissident faction, while major drug-trafficking gang the Clan del Golfo rejected an offer of lower sentences for surrendering. REUTERS
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