Colombia peace talks resume after breakthrough

Negotiators returned to the table at the talks in Havana buoyed by the recent deal, which establishes how justice will be meted out for crimes committed during the five-decade conflict.

Havana: The Colombian government and FARC guerrillas resumed peace talks after signing a partial deal that President Juan Manuel Santos vowed would pave the way to peace within six months.

Negotiators returned to the table at the talks in Havana buoyed by the recent deal, which establishes how justice will be meted out for crimes committed during the five-decade conflict.

The deal, which would create special courts and impose maximum sentences of eight years for those who admit their crimes, was hailed by both sides as a major breakthrough when it was signed on September 23.

But as the nearly three-year-old peace talks resumed in the Cuban capital, the two sides had different messages on the road ahead.

A government negotiator said the justice deal was a "document under construction" that still needed to be finalized by lawyers from both sides.

The FARC, however, have declared that discussion on the justice issue is now "closed."

That view was reiterated yesterday by FARC chief negotiator, Ivan Marquez, who said the "full text" of the deal was with officials from Cuba and Norway, the countries mediating the talks.

"It's the most incomparably detailed and advanced model for post-conflict justice" in the world, Marquez said.

The justice deal, which was hailed as "historic" by the United States and "decisive" by the European Union, has so far only been presented in a 10-point summary.

The full text, which comprises 75 points, has not yet been published.

It would notably put an end to the extradition of FARC rebels to the United States, one of the guerrillas' top demands.

The current round of negotiations, the 42nd since the talks began in November 2012, is scheduled to run through October 8.

The two sides have now reached deals on four issues in their six-point agenda: justice, land reform, political participation for ex-rebels and fighting the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

The two unsettled issues are disarmament and the ratification of the final accord.

The US special envoy for the peace process, Bernard Aronson, said Friday that the United States -- a key ally of Colombia -- is ready to accept the FARC as a political player in the South American country.

"If the FARC becomes a lawful political movement and severs its ties with criminal activities, we will treat it like any other political force," he said.

The Colombian conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and uprooted six million since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was launched in 1964.  

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