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Colombia rebel group declares truce as peace talks resume

November 19, 2012|By Chris Kraul
  • FARC commander Ivan Marquez reads a statement to the media at Convention Palace in Havana.
FARC commander Ivan Marquez reads a statement to the media at Convention… (Adalberto Roque / AFP/Getty…)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- In what some analysts saw as an encouraging sign, Colombia's largest rebel group declared a two-month truce to take effect Monday night as peace talks resumed in hopes of ending the country's five-decade civil conflict.

Ivan Marquez, a top commander and negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials FARC, said the truce was a goodwill gesture over the Christmas holidays. He spoke in Havana, where talks resumed this week after opening in Oslo last month.

"This is an important peace gesture that could contribute to generating confidence," said Clara Lopez, president of Colombia's largest opposition party, the Democratic Pole.

As of midday Monday, the Colombian government had not responded to the FARC declaration. It has rejected the group's previous requests that both sides declare a cease-fire while the talks are underway. President Juan Manuel Santos has said he would accept a truce only after agreement is reached on a peace accord.

Although Santos sought out the rebels to begin negotiations, he has set strict conditions, including that negotiations will last months not years and produce an end to the conflict. The last attempt at peace talks collapsed in failure in 2002 partly because they were open-ended and enabled the FARC strengthen its military position.

The truce declaration was taken as a welcome move after Marquez's unexpectedly belligerent address in Oslo last month, during which he said that even if an accord is reached, the FARC would remained armed as a fighting unit. 

The peace talks are taking place at a convention center in Havana where each side's five-person negotiating team and support staff are assembled.

The FARC has fought the government since 1964, when the rebel group was formed. From its maximum strength of about 20,000 insurgents in 2002, the FARC's ranks have been decimated by desertions and casualties at the hands of much improved Colombian armed forces.

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