Colombian peace talks said to advance amid many challenges

Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:47pm EST
 
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By Jeff Franks and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Talks between the Colombian government and Marxist-led FARC rebels to end their bloody, half-century-long conflict have made progress, but broad areas of disagreement lie ahead, the two sides said on Friday as they headed into a holiday break.

Lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, speaking at the conclusion of the second round of meetings, said the two sides had agreed on some "unprecedented mechanisms" for civic input into the peace process.

"Since November 19 when we formally began, we've had 21 sessions and more than 100 hours of intense work, and concrete advances, all as expected," said de la Calle, who read a statement but did not take questions.

The two sides are trying to end a war that dates to 1964 when the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was formed as a communist agrarian movement to end the country's long history of social inequality.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced in South America's last Marxist-led armed rebellion, a vestige of the Cold War.

They said in a joint communiqué on Friday the talks, which will resume in Havana on January 14, were being held "in an atmosphere of respect and constructive spirit."

But the comments of de la Calle and, in a separate press conference, the rebels, signaled the differences to be overcome.

De La Calle said the goal was to convert the illegal guerrilla group into a legitimate political organization, while maintaining the country's economic and social models.   Continued...

 
Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group (L-R) Tanja Nijmeijer of the Netherlands, Ricardo Tellez, FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich attend a news conference in Havana December 21, 2012. Talks to end Colombia's bloody, half-century-long conflict with Marxist-led FARC rebels have made progress, but many challenges lie ahead, the government's top negotiator said on Friday. Former vice president Humberto de la Calle, speaking after the two sides finished their second round of meetings and broke until Jan. 14, said they had agreed on some "unprecedented mechanisms" for civic input into the peace process. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa