Colombia peace talks set to resume despite army patrol deaths | News | DW | 25.08.2013
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Colombia peace talks set to resume despite army patrol deaths

Peace talks between Colombian FARC rebels and the government are set to resume in Cuba despite an attack which has left 13 soldiers dead. The latest attack was in the oil-producing northeast of the country.

Government and rebels in Colombia have been holding peace talks in Cuba since November, with the aim of ending Latin America's longest insurgency.

Saturday's attack in the town of Tame in the oil-producing northeastern province of Arauca near the border with Venezuela, came after other attacks by FARC fighters. In July, according to the Reuters news agency, rebels killed 19 soldiers in two separate attacks. Most of them were protecting an oil pipeline in the country's northeast.

Former Colombian vice president Humberto de la Calle, the lead negotiator for Bogota, said the FARC would return to the talks on Monday to "continue the discussions normally."

The FARC had proposed a bilateral ceasefire during the talks, but President Juan Manuel Santos rejected the offer, saying it could be used to strengthen the insurgency militarily.

"The president has instructed us on the decision to return tomorrow to Havana to continue talks on a search for an end to the conflict," de la Calle said, reading a statement. "It was carefully noted that the FARC had taken the decision
to return on Monday at half past eight in the morning to the talks table to continue deliberations as normal."

Santos recalled his team in Havana on Friday after the FARC declared a pause in talks to study a government proposal on how to ratify a final peace accord. The president proposed that any peace agreement must be put to a national referendum. The FARC had expressed its hope that any accord would be put before a constituent assembly.

The rebels released a letter from their leader Timoleon Jimenez dated Thursday in which he questioned Santos's commitment to peace, saying the president was using the negotiations to promote neoliberalism. "This agreement being negotiated in Cuba since November 2012 concerns a pardon for the guerrillas in exchange for the globalization of Colombian neoliberalism," the leader known as "Timoshenko" wrote in the letter posted on the group's website.

The FARC is Colombia's main guerrilla group with an estimated 8,000 fighters, according to the defense ministry. A government commission last month estimated that 220,000 people have lost their lives in the near 50-year-old conflict. Other estimates run as high as 600,000 dead.

jm/ng (Reuters, AFP)