President Juan Manuel Santos has called for accelerated peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. New deaths on Saturday brought the total fatalities in a two-day government offensive to 34.
President Santos has called for accelerated negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) despite a push by the military that began Thursday with an airstrike that killed 26 members of the group. Following that attack, FARC immediately suspended a unilateral ceasefire declared in December.
"We have to make decisions to stop this war as soon as possible and I'm ready to accelerate negotiations to reach a final and definitive bilateral ceasefire as quickly as possible," Santos said late Saturday.
Government talks under way with the FARC in Cuba's capital, Havana, have carried on for a full year "without any substantial advance," he added.
Santos ordered the cessation of airstrikes against FARC in March, but changed his mind in April, after the group killed 10 soldiers. On Saturday, a new military attack killed at least seven members of a force commanded by Pastor Alape, a FARC envoy to the talks in Havana. The deaths came as the air force attacked rebels in rural areas of Antioquia province in northwest Colombia, according to a government provincial secretary.
The conflict has killed some 220,000 people and uprooted 5 million since the nominally Marxist FARC organized in 1964 following a series of attacks by the right-wing government on rural dwellers in the aftermath of Colombia's 1950s civil war.
Peace negotiations under way since 2012 have reached tentative agreements on land reform and compensation, political participation by FARC, drug policy and the removal of landmines. Since last June, the two sides have focused on the victims of the conflict and at the end of 2014 the factions began to set the groundwork for disarmament.
In light of this week's events, the delegations in Havana announced that they would work separately on Saturday but hoped to return to the negotiating table by Monday.
mkg/cmk (EFE, AFP, AP)