FARC leader urges Colombia to save talks

Peace talks stalled since January after government refused to extend truce with Latin America's largest rebel group.
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2013 09:02
FARC rebels freed two police officers on February 15 ahead of the next round of peace talks in Cuba [AFP]

A top commander of Colombia's FARC rebels has called on President Juan Manuel Santos to save peace talks started three months ago in Cuba, even as he accused government negotiators of strangling efforts to reach a final deal.

Timoleon Jimenez, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) made the statement in an open letter, which was read by a FARC negotiator in Havana on Friday where negotiations have been taking place.

"While it is true that things have moved forward and there have been advances at the negotiating table, the government's attitude repeats the same excuses, and threatens to throw it all in a swamp," Jimenez said. "Let's get away from that already."

Jimenez, also known by his war alias "Timochenko", said the the government has "a narrow and calculated idea" that is "almost strangling" the talks. "Let's save it," he said.

Talks have stalled since January 20, when FARC announced the end of a two-month unilateral ceasefire after Santos refused to extend a truce. 

The Marxist rebel group entered peace talks with the government in mid-November last year, as the two sides look to end a war that dates to 1964 when FARC was formed as a communist land-reform movement.

The negotiations are built on a five-point agenda addressing the issues that provoked and prolonged the war, starting with land reform and rural development.

FARC has proposed giving a broad swath of Colombia to the poor, but the government has said land will not be taken from private landowners.

The government has demanded that FARC stop its practice of kidnapping while the guerrillas have made clear they will continue to seize members of the armed forces, who they regard as prisoners of war.

On February 15, FARC rebels freed two police patrolmen it seized last month, in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of the next round of peace negotiations with the government.

While FARC has been weakened due in part to US-backed strikes, it has remained the largest rebel group in Latin America. 


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