FARC praises Colombia`s Santos for halting air strikes

Colombia`s FARC guerrillas on Tuesday praised President Juan Manuel Santos` decision to suspend air strikes against rebel forces, but urged further steps to de-escalate the half-century-old conflict.

Bogota: Colombia`s FARC guerrillas on Tuesday praised President Juan Manuel Santos` decision to suspend air strikes against rebel forces, but urged further steps to de-escalate the half-century-old conflict.

Santos ordered the stand-down on Saturday, five days after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, resumed a unilateral ceasefire.

"The FARC regards as positive the presidential decision to suspend bombings of our camps," said rebel negotiator Carlos Antonio Lozada, reading a statement to reporters here.

The FARC and the Santos government have been in peace negotiations in Havana since 2012 but the process was badly jolted earlier this year by a flare-up in fighting.

"Without doubt, the president`s decision is a measure which helps generate a climate of confidence propitious for advancing the discussion of pending issues," Lozada said.

But he stressed that additional measures were needed to ratchet down the conflict, Latin America`s oldest guerrilla war.

"It`s necessary to agree on new measures that deepen and consolidate this process of de-escalation, so that the possibility of wasting this effort becomes more and more remote," he said.

Santos had previously ordered a bombing pause March 10 but resumed air strikes in mid April after 11 soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush.

The FARC argued that the ambush was a defensive action against a military patrol that had been harassing a guerrilla unit.

The wave of air strikes that followed cost the FARC the lives of about 30 rebels, prompting it to suspend a unilateral ceasefire it had been observing since December.

International sponsors of the peace talks -- Norway, Cuba, Chile and Venezuela -- worked to get the sides to back off, and on July 12 they agreed to a series of measures aimed at tamping down the conflict and reviving the peace talks.
 

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