Colombian President Will Lead Efforts toward Possible Peace Talks

Colombian President Will Lead Efforts toward Possible Peace Talks

By Dialogo
August 10, 2011

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on 8 August that he will lead efforts toward possible peace talks with leftist guerrillas only if the “appropriate circumstances” are present, including the release of hostages kidnapped by the rebels.

His comments were made a day after he ordered a review of strategy in the fight against the guerrillas and emerging criminal gangs and on the occasion of his first anniversary in office.

Santos affirmed that the Armed Forces will continue to fight the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), who have intensified their attacks in recent months, especially against the oil sector, an important economic motor.

“Of course, I’m interested in seeking peace, and as president of the Republic, it’s my job to lead any effort that might lead to a possible dialogue, but only, only when the appropriate circumstances are present,” he said in a televised address.

“I have not authorized and am not authorizing anyone to have contact with the FARC or the ELN; we will only open the door to dialogue when we are sure, sure that the subversives have shown clear signs of their interest in achieving peace and not making a mockery of the country again,” he warned.

Santos maintained that one of the gestures that might help toward a possible rapprochement with the FARC would be the unilateral and unconditional release of the hostages the group is holding in the jungle, including at least 15 members of the Armed Forces, some of them for more than a decade.

In the past, both the FARC and the ELN, which are considered terrorist organizations by the United States and the European Union, have rejected Santos’s conditions for possible peace talks, for which reason a negotiated solution to the conflict is not immediately foreseen.

“The unilateral release without conditions of the kidnapping victims they have in their power today could be a step in the right direction; meanwhile, the military will be implacable in pursuing and fighting these terrorist groups,” he affirmed.

Colombia, a country of 46 million inhabitants and an exporter of oil, coal, and coffee, has faced an internal armed conflict for more than four decades, at a cost of thousands of lives each year.