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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Colombian peace talks postponed

Peace talks between the government of Colombia and the country’s long-standing left-wing guerrilla group FARC were due to begin in Oslo early this month but reportedly have been postponed for around a week. FARC officials claim they’ll now begin on October 15, but that hadn’t been confirmed by Colombian authorities.

There’s been some confusion over when the much-anticipated peace talks would actually start, with government officials saying October 5 and FARC officials saying October 8. News bureau NTB reported Tuesday that FARC sent out a press release Monday to journalists in Havana, where Cuban authorities have taken part in arranging the talks, stating that the talks with the government in Colombia would begin October 15 and that both sides would make a public statement two days later.

Norwegian authorities have held to “the first half of October” and said they welcomed the authorities’ decision in Bogota to open up for direct negotiations between Colombia’s government and FARC. “It demands courage to create peace,” former Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said last month before he was transferred to the health ministry. “I want to praise both sides for starting a dialogue that can bring an end to the lengthy armed conflict in Colombia.”

Now new Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide will oversee the talks along with officials from Cuba, while officials in Chile also have helped facilitate the peace initiative. Norway has been involved in efforts to bring peace to Colombia for many years and most recently has, according to the Norwegian foreign ministry, “contributed towards providing a good and secure framework for the talks, and to building up confidence between the parties.”

Støre said the Norwegians “took on the role of arranger after requests from both parties” and “looked forward to receiving both parties in Oslo.”

The postponement came at the same time news broke that Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos, age 61, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Santos himself said “a little tumor” had been found and that the cancer was not aggressive. He was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday and his doctors asked him to refrain from any travel for the first weeks after the operation.

Santos said he would “continue to function as the republic’s president.” Its conflict with FARC has continued since the group’s founding in 1964 and the planned talks in Oslo mark the first formal attempt to end it for 10 years.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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