May 23, 2013
Colombia's Santos rejects FARC call for ceasefire
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos rejected a proposal on Thursday by leftist FARC rebels for a bilateral ceasefire during talks next month aimed at bringing an end to half a century of war.
The call for both sides to put down their weapons while talks are under way in Norway came earlier from leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at a news conference in Havana.
The proposal and its rejection could complicate the process from the start as Santos is adamant that Colombian military operations would continue across "every centimeter" of the Andean nation.
"I have asked that military operations be intensified, that there will be no ceasefire of any kind," Santos said during an address at a military base in Tolemaida, close to the capital.
"We won't cede anything at all until we reach the final agreement," he added. "That should be very clear."
A decade ago, during the last attempt at ending Latin America's longest-running insurgency, the rebels used a demilitarized area the size of Switzerland to beef up their military operations and establish a multibillion-dollar drug-trafficking network.
"One of the differences with past peace processes is that we won't give up one centimeter of national territory or cease operations, and those principals have to be maintained until the end," Santos said.
At its news conference, the FARC named two negotiators who will sit with government representatives in Oslo and later in Cuba to try to end a war that has left tens of thousands dead since it began in 1964.
"We are going to propose a ceasefire immediately when we sit at the table," senior FARC commander Mauricio Jaramillo said.
"Better said, we are going to fight for it. We are going to discuss it there at the table, but it is one of the first points," he said, announcing that talks would start on Oct. 8 in Norway.
Santos said there was no firm start date yet and that talks could continue for as long as nine months.
The former defence minister, whose approval rating has fallen in recent months, surprised Colombians this week when he said there would be no ceasefire during peace talks with the FARC.
Santos had always demanded that the rebels put down their weapons, free all hostages and stop attacks on military, civilian and economic targets before any negotiations could be considered.