Colombians around the world will fix their gaze on Norway this Wednesday, when President Juan Manuel Santos and government officials reopen peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nation’s long-standing insurgent guerrilla group.
Three other efforts for peace in the South American country were attempted in the late eighties and nineties without success. On August 27, President Santos announced in a press conference that his administration had agreed to “exploratory” peace talks with the FARC in Cuba -- a fourth attempt at ending the half-century long violence originally scheduled to take place on October 8 in Olso, Norway.
At the beginning of this month, both sides agreed to postpone negotiations until this past Monday, but “logistical difficulties” prevented Colombian government officials from arriving to Norway in time, a government spokeswoman told Reuters.
Colombian newspaper El Espectador reported that inclement weather also affected the travel plans of some FARC members and that the talks had been delayed in part by a last minute inclusion of the Dutch national Tanja Nijmeijer to the rebel group’s team of negotiators.
Government officials originally refused the Dutch rebel’s incorporation to the talks because she was not a Colombian citizen, the paper continues, but the rebel group argued the terms of agreement gave them complete liberty to appoint their spokespersons without government interference.
“That’s a topic that can be an obstacle at first, but not on the important issues,” Yesid Arteta, a former FARC rebel currently in Oslo, told El Espectador about Nijmeijer.
On Monday, the leader of the FARC, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, alias ‘Timoleón Jiménez’ or ‘Timochenko,’ spoke optimistically with Colombian radio station La Fm about the upcoming peace talks.
“We reached an agreement to begin negotiations in order to open a path towards peace with social justice,” Echeverri told La Fm. “Let there be no doubt that all of the members of the FARC, from the newest to the oldest, are enthusiastically following this new attempt.”
A press conference will mark the beginning of the peace dialogue on Wednesday, and the Associated Press reports that President Santos expects the talks to begin by Thursday.
A ceremony will be held to publicly announce the talks’ results, in which the Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide and delegates from Venezuela, Cuba and Chile as guarantors will present, according to El Espectador.
Behind closed doors, Colombian officials and the rebel group are expected to touch upon six pre-determined points through which the parties intend to end the armed conflict, according to Colombian radio station RCN La Radio.
The six points on the official document procured by RCN are comprehensive agricultural development policy, political participation, an end to the conflict, drug trafficking, victims and atonement, and implementation of the final agreements of the peace dialogue.
According to Colombia Reports, the Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Jan Egeland, said on Monday that “the heinous war crimes in Colombia cannot go unpunished after the peace process." Egeland was present at the last failed peace talks that occurred over a decade ago between the rebel group and the Colombian government.
A recent survey, reported by BBC Mundo, found that 77 percent of Colombians support the peace talks, but only 54 percent say they are optimistic about the results. The survey also revealed that 78 percent oppose extending amnesty to the leaders of the FARC and 72 percent oppose their political participation.