Tue, Oct 16, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Bad weather holds up start of peace talks for Colombia

AFP, BOGOTA

Relatives of kidnapped, missing and forced recruits of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia hold posters at the First National Victims Meeting on Sunday in Bogota, Colombia.

Photo: AFP

The Colombian government delegation set to launch a formal peace process with leftist rebels in Norway delayed its departure on Sunday due to poor weather, a source close to the negotiating team said.

“The delegates’ departure has been delayed due to weather conditions. We do not know when they will be traveling,” the source told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Hail and thunderstorms have plagued Bogota’s El Dorado Airport in recent days, triggering hours-long closures and flight cancelations.

Calls placed with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, Cuba, were not returned.

The government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leftist FARC guerrillas are headed to the negotiations in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, with hopes to end half a century of bitter conflict and bloodshed.

The two sides were expected to meet yesterday before holding a joint press conference tomorrow. Yet the Colombian government has not officially announced the exact date of the talks, although Santos has said they will begin in the first half of this month.

Further negotiations are scheduled to take place later in Cuba, which would, with Norway, serve as a guarantor of the peace process.

Former Colombian vice president Humberto de la Calle heads the government delegation, which also includes retired Colombian generals Jorge Rojas and Oscar Naranjo.

The FARC team is set to travel to Oslo from Havana.

The last attempt at peace talks collapsed a decade ago when the Colombian government determined that the guerrillas were regrouping in a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland, created to help reach a peace deal. Earlier attempts at negotiated peace also ended in failure.

The FARC — Latin America’s largest rebel group, founded in 1964, with 9,200 armed fighters — may finally be ready for a truce after a long string of setbacks.

In recent years, it has suffered the capture and killing of some of its top leaders, and the depletion of its ranks to half of what they were at their peak in the 1990s.

A war-weary Colombian public also appears to be more than ready for an end to the violence.

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