[QODLink]
Americas
Colombia seeking peace with FARC rebels
"Exploratory" talks held with fighters and government may reach out to second guerrilla group, president says.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2012 00:27

Colombia's president has said his government will seek peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country's largest guerrilla group, to end five decades of war.

In a televised address from the presidential palace on Monday, Juan Manuel Santos said his government would learn from the mistakes of so many previous leaders who tried but failed to clinch a lasting ceasefire with the armed group, which is known by is acronym, FARC.

"We have had exploratory conversations with the FARC to seek an end to the conflict," Santos said, confirming weeks of rumours that his government had started behind-the-scenes discussions.

The government may also reach out to the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, another guerrilla movement, he said.

Meanwhile, government troops will continue operations, Santos said.

A successful peace agreement with the rebels would secure Santos a place in history as the leader who ended a conflict that has killed tens of thousands over the years and left the Andean nation's reputation in tatters.

As part of the deal to hold talks, the government agreed that leaders of FARC would not be extradited to other countries to stand trial, a Colombian intelligence source told the Reuters news agency.

Details of the accord are still being worked out, but the negotiations could take place in Cuba or in Norway, the source said.

'Peace at any cost'

Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said "everything started some months ago" when Santos met his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, and asked him to begin a mediation process.

"No doubt - and Santos has been clear since his first day in office - that he wants peace to be his legacy. He said many times that there is only one possible way of winning the internal conflict in Colombia, and that is reaching peace," our correspondent said.

Santos said that the military would not be giving up any territory to the FARC once negotiations began.

Ex-FARC hostage on life after captivity

Al Jazeera's Rampietti said the Colombian government and parliament had been laying the groundwork for the peace process for months, and that mechanisms now exist within the law for it to proceed and for "a political solution" to be reached in the internal civil conflict.

US President Barack Obama is said to be aware of the process and is in agreement, the intelligence source said.

News of the peace talks is likely to anger Alvaro Uribe, Santos's predecessor, who has criticised any idea of talks with the rebels and has admonished Santos for wanting "peace at any cost."

The FARC, which calls itself "the people's army" and claims to defend peasant rights, has battled about a dozen administrations since appearing in 1964, when its founder Manuel Marulanda and 48 rebels fought off thousands of troops in jungle hideouts.

The group has been dealt defeats in recent years, as US-trained special forces use sophisticated technology and spy networks to track the leaders.

The FARC's string of defeats began in 2008 with a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes, its second in command.

Marulanda died of a heart attack weeks later and was replaced by Alfonso Cano, who was later killed too.

The drug-funded group is led by Timoleon Jimenez, known by his war alias "Timochenko".

598

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps will be released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.