Mediators want `urgent de-escalation` in Colombia
Four countries supporting peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels called Tuesday for an "urgent de-escalation" of armed conflict, as 1,200 terrified indigenous people fled more heavy fighting.
Bogota: Four countries supporting peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels called Tuesday for an "urgent de-escalation" of armed conflict, as 1,200 terrified indigenous people fled more heavy fighting.
The appeal comes after clashes resumed in mid-April, following an ambush by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that left 11 soldiers dead. Each side blames the other for the escalation.
"We urge the parties to strictly restrict any actions that cause victims or suffering in Colombia, and to step up the implementation of confidence-building measures," Norway representative Idun Aarak Tvedt said in a statement to journalists.
"We consider these steps to be essential in order to guarantee the conditions for and create a climate conducive to achieving agreement."
Cuba and Norway are acting as so-called "guarantor" countries in the peace talks that began in November 2012 in Havana. Chile and Venezuela are "escort" countries.
Despite the appeal two soldiers were killed, two wounded and a fifth reported missing in southern Colombia on Tuesday following attacks that were believed to have been carried out by the FARC.
Meanwhile, three soldiers were killed and four injured in the southwestern Colombia state of Putumayo, where officials said a military convoy carrying a crude oil was attacked with explosives.
Army officials said a search has been launched for one missing soldier who they said may have been captured by leftist rebels.
Separately, about 1,200 people in an indigenous community in the northwest fled their homes in the face of renewed fighting in the rural area, said a statement from the Indigenous Organization of Antioquia.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, on Twitter, welcomed the four countries` appeal.
As did FARC`s chief negotiator, Ivan Marquez, while also accusing government forces of stepping up attacks on rebel camps as the guerrillas were observing a unilateral truce, which they ended in May after five months of relative calm.
Since then, about 30 rebels have been killed in army operations and recent surveys show the public to be wary about the peace process.
Colombia`s civil strife dates back to 1964 and has drawn in left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs, killing more than 220,000 people and uprooting as many as six million.
Despite the renewed bloodshed the Colombian government said for the first time Saturday that it was potentially open to a bilateral ceasefire.
So far, the two sides have agreed on three points of a six-point agenda for the faltering peace process.