Colombia gives Farc 1 year for peace deal

2012-12-03 13:00
President Juan Manuel Santos. (File,AP)

President Juan Manuel Santos. (File,AP)

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Bogota - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos put the country's Marxist Farc rebels on warning on Sunday that they have until November 2013 to strike a peace deal under recently opened talks.

"This has to be a process of months, rather than years. In other words, this should not last any longer than November next year at the latest," the president said at an event in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena.

"But it is important to be patient, and not demand immediate results, because it is a... negotiating table with some very complicated issues being discussed," Santos stressed.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), Latin America's longest insurgency, started talks formally with Bogota on 18 October in neutral Norway. The talks moved to Havana on 19 November and will resume this week.

It is a conflict that has dragged on for almost a half century, with about 600 000 dead, 15 000 missing and four million people domestically displaced.

Last Thursday Colombian government and rebel negotiators reported progress in the first peace talks in a decade as they try to end Latin America's longest running guerrilla insurgency.

Unequal land distribution

Talks will resume on Wednesday and continue to focus on land reform, the first point on the agenda, the parties said in a joint statement.

Ivan Marquez, the Farc's number two negotiator, has said an agreement reached to hold a public forum in Bogota next month on agrarian development - unequal land distribution is a longstanding problem at the root of the conflict - was the best sign the process is moving forward.

Previous attempts at peace have failed. In the last effort, which lasted from 1999 to 2002, the government ended talks after concluding the Farc were using a vast demilitarised zone to regroup.

The Farc - founded in 1964 and believed to have about 9 000 armed fighters - took up arms to protest against the concentration of land ownership in Colombia.

The rebels have suffered a string of military defeats in recent years, and several of their top commanders have been captured or killed. Farc ranks have also been severely depleted from its peak in the 1990s.

Aside from reaching a deal on land ownership, both sides must also agree on a mechanism to end hostilities, incorporating the Farc into political life, curbing drug trafficking, and on compensating victims of the conflict.

Read more on:    farc  |  juan manuel santos  |  colombia
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