[QODLink]
Americas

Colombian rebels optimistic on peace talks

Marxist rebels speak of progress in latest round of talks with the government seeking to end nearly 50 years of war.
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 12:21
Talks in Havana seek to end a decades-old conflict between FARC and the Colombian government [GALLO/GETTY]

Marxist FARC rebels and Colombian government negotiators have wrapped up the first round of talks aimed at ending Latin America's longest-running insurgency.

The issues covered at the peace talks in Havana included the political and legal future of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, drug trafficking and compensation for victims of violence.

Ricardo Tellez, negotiating for FARC, told journalists it was still early for a breakthrough.

"Very serious, deep matters were covered. These [peace talks] have just started, 11 days would be a long time to build a small house but to build just dialogue it's normal, it's the start. There was even space to laugh, for a joke," he said.

In an effort to bolster talks, FARC declared a two-month unilateral ceasefire and vowed to halt all military operations and acts of sabotage against infrastructure until mid January.

Laying down arms

Ivan Marquez, leading FARC negotiator, spoke of efforts to lay down arms to support peace: "We were not frightened by the issue of giving up our weapons because we believe that if we get rid of the causes that generate conflict, there would be no reason, no justification for the use of arms."

Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, rebuffed the move and said the government would not reciprocate by halting military operations.

Dutch FARC member Tanja Nijmeijer played down the differences between both sides, saying the talks had helped build rapport.

"The atmosphere during the talks is very good. There's even space for little jokes, for laughing. It's a really good atmosphere I think. The talks are going very well. We have been talking about the participation of the Colombian people," she said.

Marquez also said he welcomed efforts by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, who was instrumental in bringing both sides together by holding meetings with Colombia's Santos and Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro earlier this year to help kick off the talks.

"(Venezuelan) President (Hugo) Chavez and Venezuela are on the side of peace in Colombia and peace in the region.
We only have words of gratitude for President Chavez," he said.

348

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.