Colombia, FARC say peace talks advancing

Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:51pm EST
 

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels said on Sunday their talks aimed at ending half a century of conflict are picking up the pace and making progress toward an agreement on land reform, a key point in the peace process.

Speaking as they ended their latest round of negotiations in the Cuban capital, negotiators signaled that the public acrimony they had displayed in recent weeks did not reflect what was happening behind closed doors.

Rodrigo Granda, a senior leader of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, said discussions were on the right track and moving "at the speed of a bullet train."

Lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle was more measured, but said "the pace has improved and we have to maintain and preserve it."

They are trying to end a war that dates to the FARC's formation in 1964 as a communist agrarian reform movement fighting Colombia's long history of social inequality and the concentration of land in the hands of a few.

Tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced in the war, Latin America's longest running insurgency and a vestige of the Cold War.

The two sides traded barbs before the current round of talks, when the FARC conducted attacks and kidnapped three people after the government refused to join them in a ceasefire.

The rebels also have issued statements calling for a halt to, among other things, foreign investment in oil exploration and mining in Colombia.   Continued...

 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) lead negotiator Ivan Marquez smokes a Cohiba cigar next to FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich (R) after a conference in Havana February 10, 2013. Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels said on Sunday their talks aimed at ending half a century of conflict are picking up pace and making progress towards an agreement on land reform, a key point in the peace process. Speaking as they ended their latest round of negotiations in the Cuban capital, they signalled that public acrimony they had displayed in recent weeks did not represent what was happening behind closed doors. Rodrigo Granda, a senior leader of the FARC, said the discussions were moving ahead on the “right track” and “at the speed of a bullet train.” REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)