`No ceasefire during talks with FARC`

Last Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 16:05

Bogota: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected calls by the FARC guerrilla group for an immediate truce once peace talks begin next month.

"There won`t be any kind of cease fire. We won`t have anything here until we reach a final agreement," Santos said after a meeting with Colombia`s military and police brass, who expressed their full support for the upcoming negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"Mr President, you can count on our unconditional support. We understand our historic role," Armed forces commander Gen Alejandro Navas said.

Santos, for his part, called on the military and police to "intensify their actions" against the rebels.

His remarks came hours after FARC representatives said in Havana they would propose that a cease fire be established at the onset of the negotiations, which will be formally inaugurated Oct 8 in Oslo and later move to the Cuban capital.

The accord establishing a framework for the peace process was signed Aug 26 in Havana after six months of secret exploratory discussions on the communist-ruled island under the auspices of the Cuban and Norwegian governments.

Regarding a possible negotiating role for senior guerrilla Simon Trinidad, who was extradited to the US in 2004 and sentenced to 60 years in prison in connection with the capture of three US military contractors held captive by the FARC, Santos said both sides must be "realistic".

"There are things that can be done and other that can`t. That`s important to understand in this process," the president added.

Former vice president Humberto de la Calle will head the government`s negotiating team in the peace negotiations.

FARC representatives said in a press conference Thursday in Havana that the rebels` negotiating team will be led by Ivan Marquez, a member of the group`s political leadership, and Jesus Santrich, who is part of the guerrilla military command.

The FARC`s Mauricio Jaramillo said the rebels also will ask that Trinidad be permitted to take part in the negotiating process.

That request sparked controversy in Colombia, as did the guerrillas` assertion that they no longer are holding anyone captive after 10 soldiers and police officers - the last of a group the rebels had once proposed exchanging for hundreds of jailed rebels - were released in April.

The FARC also is believed to be holding dozens or even hundreds of ordinary people captive, although the precise number is unknown.

The guerrilla group`s high command announced in February that the rebels would cease abductions for ransom.

Santos said earlier this week that the forthcoming negotiations will focus on rural development and improved access to land; security guarantees for the political opposition and activists; an end to armed conflict and the full demobilization of the guerrillas; the problem of drug trafficking; and the rights of victims of both the rebels and the security forces.

The new peace process differs from earlier failed attempts, according to the president, in that it will unfold outside Colombia.

The most recent negotiations, during the 1998-2002 government of President Andres Pastrana, took place in a demilitarized area of southern Colombia - dubbed "Farclandia" - and collapsed amid mutual recriminations.

Santos` decision to talk peace with the FARC is supported by 60 percent of Colombians, according to a Gallup poll released Sunday, while the smaller ELN insurgency has expressed an interest in joining the process.

IANS



First Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 12:41

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