Colombia's Santos Says Rebel Peace Talks To Start In October

by
Reuters
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas would start in Oslo in the first half of October before moving to Havana.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos offering an address to the nation from NariƱo Palace, in Bogota

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas would start in Oslo in the first half of October before moving to Havana.

There would be no ceasefire, he added in a televised national address, during the latest attempt to end the South American nation's five-decade conflict.

"I ask the Colombian people for patience and strength," Santos said. "There's no doubt it's time to turn the page."

While Colombians are hopeful Santos will succeed, he faces a monumental task attempting peace with the FARC, which has holed up in Colombia's jungle territory since 1964 and imposed tough demands in past peace negotiations.

Santos, 61, who is at the mid-point of a four-year term, had repeatedly said he would consider talks with the FARC only if he was certain the drug-funded group would negotiate in good faith.

The FARC comes to peace talks this time, however, from a severely weakend position. Battered by a decade-long U.S.-backed Colombian military offensive, the rebels have lost as much as half their fighting force, reducing their ability to launch major attacks on the government.

Still, they are by no means spent and in recent months have stepped up assaults on key economic infrastructure like oil and mining installations, in a bid, some analysts say, to come to the negotiating table from a position of relative strength.

Venezuela and Chile will help support the talks, Santos added.