Colombia threatens to end peace talks with FARC rebels

Country’s top negotiator warns peace process is at its “worst moment” after series of attacks by rebel fighters.

Colombian forces and FARC rebels have been holding talks since 2012 to end the five-decade-long conflict [Getty Images]

Colombia’s top negotiator in peace talks with rebel group FARC has said his country could walk away from negotiations unless unless the group shows more commitment to finding a resolution. 

Inside Story- Will Colombia peace talks end FARC control?

Humberto De la Calle said the peace process was at its “worst moment” since talks in Cuba began in late 2012, according to an interview with writer Juan Gossain.

“I want to tell the FARC in all seriousness, this could end. Some day, it’s probable that they won’t find us around the table in Havana,” De la Calle said in the interview, which was provided to other media outlets on Saturday.

Talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have succeeded in reaching agreement on most of the agenda, but the process is now under strain after a series of attacks by the rebel group.

FARC unleashed a wave of bomb attacks on oil pipelines in recent weeks, rupturing them close to rivers and causing an environmental disaster that is expected to take two decades to clean up.

Optimism that had grown over the peace talks, boosted by the FARC’s agreement to clear landmines, was shattered after the FARC ambushed and killed 11 soldiers in the country’s southwest in April. That led the government to resume air raids of FARC jungle bases, in turn prompting the rebels to abandon a unilateral ceasefire.

Dimmed prospects

The FARC’s insistence the government agree to a bilateral ceasefire even as its negotiators flatly reject the idea some members should pay jail time for the group’s worst crimes, have also driven a rift between them and dimmed prospects for a deal.

Colombia talks continue despite violence

De la Calle said the government was prepared to consider a bilateral ceasefire before a deal is signed, if the FARC accepts judicial responsibility for the violence it has perpetrated and only if it also abstains from extortion and the drug trade. 

In a conciliatory move on Friday, the FARC leadership in Havana said they were seeking to “de-escalate” the conflict after weeks of attacks in which several army troops and police were also killed. The group’s numbers are falling and all-out war is no longer seen as a realistic option.

Even if the peace process survives, its biggest obstacle may prove a sceptical Colombian public which will approve or reject any peace deal in a referendum. Its support has faded as talks drag on.

“The harsh truth is that Colombians don’t believe in the peace process,” De la Calle said.

Source: Reuters