February 24, 2016 / 4:18 PM / in 2 years

Colombian peace talks back on track, say sponsor countries

HAVANA (Reuters) - The two countries sponsoring Colombian peace talks said negotiations were back on track on Wednesday after they were thrown into disarray last week when rebel negotiators appeared in public escorted by armed and uniformed guerrillas.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar addresses the United Nations Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

“An agreement has been reached to overcome recent difficulties and normalize the conversations between the parties at the table in Havana,” said the statement read by representatives of Cuba and Norway, the so-called guarantors of the Colombian talks.

An accord was reached after the foreign ministers of Cuba and Norway intervened with Colombian government and rebel negotiators, the statement said.

The government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have been negotiating a peace deal for more than three years in Havana and have a self-imposed March 23 deadline to reach a comprehensive pact.

Latin America’s longest war has killed some 220,000 people and displaced millions of others since 1964. The two sides are attempting to reach a deal that would be placed before Colombian voters for approval, with a U.N. mission supervising rebel disarmament.

Norway provides diplomatic support and Cuba serves as host for the negotiations. The United States, which has poured billions of dollars into Colombia to fight the illicit drugs trade, is also supporting the talks behind the scenes through a special envoy.

Both the government and the rebels had indicated the March 23 deadline will likely be missed.

More discord erupted following last week’s display by the rebels, which the Colombian government saw as a provocation.

Three members of the FARC negotiating team had been given permission to travel to northern La Guajira province to explain details of an accord to FARC members, but the government said they violated the terms under which they were allowed to return by participating in public events with armed fighters.

Santos suspended any further visits and asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to help the FARC representatives return to Cuba immediately.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Jeffrey Benkoe

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