Norwegian officials could breathe a sigh of relief on Thursday, after news broke during the night that the government of Colombia had agreed on a peace pact with the militant guerrilla group FARC. The deal climaxes more than four years of peace talks that Norway has nurtured for decades.
“This is a victory for all the people of Colombia, and I congratulate the two sides,” stated Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in a press release issued by the foreign ministry Thursday morning. Her government and several predecessor governments on both sides of Norwegian politics had worked for years to help bring the two sides together and end more than 50 years of armed conflict.
“This is a historic day,” declared Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende on national radio Thursday morning. He noted how the conflict in Colombia had not only cost the lives of more than 220,000 people over the years but also had forced millions more into forced relocation, internal exile and poverty.
Norway has been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in Colombia for decades and recently has worked with officials in Cuba to arrange for a new serious spurt in negotiations. Peace talks formally started in Oslo in October 2012 and more recently in Havana, where several other counties including Chile prodded the process along.
Brende said the new agreement struck between the government and FARC addresses “many of the fundamental challenges that led to conflict.” He said terms of the agreement will provide wider political participation, access to land and alternatives to cocaine production. It’s expected to give FARC representation in the Colombian government.
He added that Norway will continue to help both sides follow up the agreement, which he called “robust.” Brende also told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) early Thursday that the agreement should also help lead people out of poverty.
“There will now be a referendum in Colombia after a formal signing ceremony in September,” Brende said, adding that Prime Minister Solberg is among those invited to attend the ceremony in Bogota. International news bureaus were sending photos of people celebrating on the streets in Colombia late Wednesday night.
The new peace pact in Colombia is also a breakthrough for Norway, which has been involved in peace negotiations in many other troubled countries over the years with varying degrees of success. Brende said that Norway, no matter which political parties hold government control, has long had “great interest” in trying to broker peace because “it can help save lives and bring people out of poverty.” Norway is also often viewed as independent and non-threatening, without its own agenda and genuinely interested in conflict resolution.
The Colombian pact may also provide an extra boost for the latest round of peace talks that began in Oslo this week between the government of the Philippines and the country’s communist movement NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines). They got off on an optimistic note at Oslo’s Holmenkollen Park Hotel, with a Filipino official saying that the two sides were “on the verge of a milestone.”