‘Breakthrough’ in Colombian talks

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide confirmed Sunday night what he called “the most important breakthrough” so far in peace talks between the government of Colombia and FARC guerrillas. Norway has played a key role in arranging the talks and officials seemed genuinely relieved by the progress announced.

Peace talks between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government began last October in Oslo. Now there's been a breakthrough. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Peace talks between FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government began last October in Oslo. Now there’s been a breakthrough. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Eide said that the two sides have agreed on how Colombia’s many small, poor farmers can gain access to more and better land. Reform of Colombia’s agricultural sector is a fundamental demand from the FARC guerrillas.

The agreement announced Sunday in Havana, where the talks that began in Oslo last fall are now taking place, “is a milestone in the negotiations, and shows that there is real willingness to find a peaceful solution to Latin America’s longest armed conflict,” Eide said in a press statement.

The government and the guerrillas will now discuss rights and guarantees for the opposition in Colombia, which Eide called “a central theme” that also needs agreement in order for FARC to lay down its arms and take part in the political process. Other themes include a ceasefire and disarmament, how to reduce narcotics production and trade in Colombia, and compensation to victims of the lengthy conflict.

It’s been going on for more than 50 years and, as Eide said, has “had great humanitarian consequences” for the civilian population. Tens of thousands of persons have been killed and more than 4 million persons have been uprooted in their own country, which remains riddled with land mines that threaten the population.

Norway has been involved in efforts to build peace and reconciliation in Colombia for several decades, with an emphasis on building dialogue between changing governments and the Colombian insurgents. Chile, Venezuela and Cuba have also played important roles in bringing the two sides together and keeping the talks going.

“Now we’re a step closer to a solution,” Eide said on Sunday, adding that Norway would “continue to support the negotiations as long as the two sides wanted the support.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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