BOGOTA Ė Colombiaís government on Monday downplayed concerns expressed by the head of the United Nationsí mission in the Andean nation and ruled out a new timetable for the laying aside of weapons by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which signed a peace deal in late November.
In a missive signed by Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin and Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo, the two responded point-by-point to a letter UN Mission chief Jean Arnault wrote recently to the Commission for Monitoring, Promotion and Verification of the Implementation of the Peace Accord.
Arnaultís letter, leaked to the press on Saturday, said the process of building camps for FARC members, including Mission-monitored sites where the rebelsí weapons will be stored, would not be completed before the end of March.
He therefore asked whether the parties would be agreeable to pushing back the start of the phased receipt by the Mission of the FARCís weapons until that date or be willing to consider other options for the gradual laying aside of the guerrilla groupís arms.
But the government said in its response that despite logistical difficulties in remote areas the main difficulties in building the 26 temporary camps to house the FARCís 6,900 guerrillas had been overcome.
Under the terms of the peace deal, the camps are intended to facilitate the disarming of the rebels and their eventual return to civilian life.
Holguin and Jaramillo rejected the possibility of a new timetable, saying both sides had agreed that the UN mission should be in possession of all of the guerrilla groupís weapons 180 days after the signing of a final peace agreement, which took place on Nov. 24.
Arnault said in a statement to the UN Security Council last month that the comprehensive laydown of weapons by the FARC was due to be completed by early June.
ďFor us, itís unreasonable that the Mission would suggest that the weapon storage sites would not be ready until the end of March,Ē Holguin and Jaramillo said in their missive, reminding Arnault of the urgency of preparing the sites where the arms will be stored.