June 19, 2013
Colombia wants to pick up pace as talks with FARC rebels resume
Representatives of the Colombian government and Marxist-led FARC rebels reconvened in Havana today for a third round of peace talks that the government says need to start moving faster.
The two sides began negotiating an end to their bloody, half-century-old conflict on November 19, but so far have only agreed on procedural issues and are returning from a three-week break over the holidays.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says he wants the process wrapped up by next November, but the rebels have said reaching a peace accord cannot be rushed.
They are trying to end a conflict that began in 1964 with the founding of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and in which tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced.
Upon arrival at the talks today, lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle called for more speed, saying the talks must move ahead at a "new pace" to maintain the support of the Colombian people.
"The important thing is that during these rounds the pace changes, that we enter with new energy this year so that here in Havana we reach agreement rapidly," he told reporters outside the convention center where the negotiations are being held.
"The people want to see an efficient, dignified, rapid (and) serious process," said de la Calle, a former vice president of Colombia.
With Norway and Cuba acting as guarantors, the government and FARC are following an agenda addressing the basic issues of the conflict, among them rural development, the FARC's involvement in the illicit drug trade, the political and legal future of the group and restitution for the war's victims.