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Peace talks resume

Mark HallamOctober 4, 2013

Negotiators for leftist Colombian rebels and Colombia's government have resumed peace talks in Cuba's capital Havana that slowed to a crawl in recent weeks. The talks began in Olso 11 months ago.

Colombian soldiers patrol in Bogota August 30, 2013. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sent troops to patrol the streets of Bogota on Friday after violent protests caused havoc across the capital, killing two people and leaving parts of the city in shambles. REUTERS/John Vizcaino (COLOMBIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
Image: Reuters

Colombia's peace talks resumed in the Cuban capital Havana on Thursday with rebels describing progress over nearly a year as only "modest." The latest session of talks is due to run until October 13.

Half a century of armed conflict across the Andean nation has cost 220,000 lives, according to recent estimates by a Colombian government commission.

As a 15th round of talks opened in Havana, Ivan Marquez, the chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), blamed delays on agenda changes.

He also acknowledged what he called the "government's will for advancing the dialogue."

On Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that a potential national vote on a peace deal with FARC would also be negotiated with rebels.

"That referendum will have to be negotiated with the other party. And that's what we are going to see if we can do in the coming days," Santos said.

Partial deal in May

In May FARC reached a five-point partial agreement with Santos' government on ways to resolve what the rebels see as unfair distribution of land and policies that benefit foreign interests.

Santos has declined to consider any changes to Colombia's institutions or economic model as a condition for talks with FARC or a smaller rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The FARC has battled a dozen governments since it began as an agrarian struggle against rural inequality but has been weakened over the past 10 years by a heavy US-backed offensive.

Both FARC and ELN are ranked as terrorist groups by the US and EU.

ipj/jm(dpa, AFP, AP)