Formal peace talks between Colombian authorities and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have been announced. It's hoped the negotations will prove more successful than past efforts.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos confirmed details of the talks with the rebel group, known by its Spanish acronym FARC, on Tuesday.
The first of the meetings is planned to take place in Norway during the first half of October, with negotiations set to continue in Cuba. The talks will be the first in a decade, aimed at ending almost 50 years of fighting.
In an address to the nation, President Juan Manuel Santos said the army would continue military operations against the FARC, and that no demilitarized zone would be set up - as it was in the last attempt at talks in 2002.
These details, Santos said, had been agreed with the rebels in preliminary talks held in Havana over the past six months. "Military operations will continue with the same or even greater intensity," he said, while the time frame of the talks would "be measured in months, not years."
Guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, known as "Timochenko," confirmed the opening of talks next month, in a recorded message released by his group's delegation in Havana.
"We have the sincere hope that the government will not repeat past scenarios," he said.
The rebel delegation leader in Cuba, Mauricio Jaramillo, told reporters that the road to peace was "difficult, but necessary."
Colombia has seen peace talks come and go before, three times since the 1980s. The last attempt was in 2002. Colombian media said on Sunday that the preliminary talks had also taken place in Venezuela and that they had produced a six-point agenda for negotiation.
US president Barack Obama and Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr both welcomed the announcement. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hailed the talks as a "unique window of opportunity" to end decades of conflict.
rc /jm(AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)