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Kerry backs peace talks during visit to Colombia

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin offer a press conference at Narina Palace in Bogota. (AFP)

Secretary of State John Kerry promised strong US backing for peace talks aimed at ending Colombia's half century of conflict, calling the country a success story in a world where many states have failed or are failing.

"The United States of America will support that peace," Kerry said after talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is negotiating with the government to bring an end to a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people since it began nearly five decades ago.

The US government has backed Colombia's effort to fight the FARC, providing billions of dollars in military aid and know-how over the past decade that has helped halve the drug-funded rebel group's force to about 8,000 fighters and push it deeper into inhospitable jungle.

Kerry's first official visit to South America is taking place under the cloud of revelations about US global surveillance programs by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The spying has sparked particular concern in Latin American countries, many of which have long complained about US infringements on their sovereignty.

Brazil, where Kerry is to arrive on Monday night, has been particularly vocal in its complaints.

Kerry said the NSA controversy was "a very small part of the overall conversation" with Santos.

"We're necessarily engaged in a very complex effort to prevent terrorists from taking innocent lives in many different places," Kerry said, citing the temporary closure of about 20 US diplomatic missions this month. "That's the only thing we're engaged in."

Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said Colombia had received the "necessary assurances" from Washington that would enable the two nations to continue to work together on security.

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Tags:  World  Colombia  US  FARC  Peace talks  





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