BOGOTA – Colombians learned on Wednesday the first details about how the peace dialogue between the national government and the FARC guerrillas may go, a process that has sparked great expectations but also fear and rejection.
Amid the government’s caution at engaging in such a dialogue with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC – and Bogota has only confirmed having “exploratory” contacts with the leftist rebels – RCN radio station released on Wednesday the text of the agreement to “begin direct and uninterrupted talks” with a commitment to “put an end to the conflict as an essential condition for the building of a stable and durable peace.”
The document, consisting of four pages and six general points, establishes that the delegates of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC initially will hold the talks in Oslo and later move them to Havana, which will be their permanent seat.
The governments of Cuba and Norway, as guarantors, and those of Venezuela and Chile, as co-guarantors, will support the talks, according to the RCN report.
“It’s a very balanced group of countries,” Leon Valencia, the director of the Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris, or CNAI, a research center for conflict and peace, told Efe by telephone.
He said that the involvement of Cuba, which has hosted several Colombian peace dialogues, and Venezuela, which has facilitated meetings with similar aims, “gives (the FARC) a lot of confidence” in the process.
Norway and Chile also provide “a lot of confidence” to the Colombian government, Valencia said.
The CNAI director also said that Bogota has gotten along well with and been well-accepted by Cuba and currently has a “good relationship” with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The participation of Venezuela, which had been flatly rejected by former President Alvaro Uribe, who governed from 2002 to 2010, was equally praised by former Sen. Piedad Cordoba, the head of Colombians for Peace, or CCP, which has facilitated the release of about 20 FARC hostages in recent years.
The presence of Chavez “is important ... insofar as Colombia is a neighboring country,” said Cordoba during a meeting with reporters in Bogota.
Cordoba and the CCP believe that a bilateral ceasefire is feasible and they are demanding that the National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas – who are also active in Colombia – be incorporated into the talks.
According to the agreement, Havana will be the “main seat” of the talks, but “meetings in other countries” may be held and “others may be invited by common agreement” to join or participate in the process.
The start of the talks will take place in Oslo, although the date for the commencement of the discussions is not specified in the text, but it could be on Oct. 5, according to the international television channel Telesur and other news sources.
Santos has only confirmed that “exploratory conversations have been held with the FARC to seek the end of the conflict” and the results “will be made public in the coming days.”
In a brief statement in the northern city of Barranquilla, Santos said Wednesday that “although it may be more difficult, (this government) wants to seek peace above encouraging war.”
The agenda for the dialogue, according to the document published by RCN, includes the issues of “comprehensive agrarian development policy,” “political participation,” “end of the conflict,” “solution to the problem of illicit drugs,” “victims” and “implementation, verification and endorsement.”
In addition, the text discusses matters such as a “bilateral and definite” ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, the laying-down of weapons and reincorporation of the guerrillas into society and politics as an opposition force.
Former conservative President Belisario Betancur, who governed from 1982 to 1986 and during that time authorized a peace process with the FARC that moved as far as a ceasefire but ultimately failed, on Wednesday called on Colombians not to be shocked at what is approaching.
“Let’s not be shocked and let’s let things continue evolving. Before the (former) guerrillas can give speeches in Congress, peace will have to have come,” he told RCN.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Tehran participating in the non-aligned summit, expressed through his New York office his satisfaction at the announcement of the exploratory talks between Bogota and the FARC, and he offered his mediation to help arrive at a resolution of the country’s internal conflict. EFE