Colombia at critical stage in peace talks

Colombia at critical stage in peace talks

BOGOTA - Reuters
Colombia at critical stage in peace talks

Santos has put a November limit on completion of peace talks with FARC.

Colombia’s peace talks with FARC militants have reached a “critical” stage, with discussions over the next couple of months a key gauge of whether an end to five decades of war is likely or not, government negotiator Sergio Jaramillo said Sept. 3.

The government has spent almost 10 months working through a difficult peace agenda in Cuba with representatives of the FARC. While some progress has been made, talks have been painstakingly slow and most now see the hoped-for year-end deadline as unlikely.

“We are currently in a critical moment of negotiations, I think that in the next months we will know if this is going to work or not because we are beginning on essential issues,” Jaramillo, one of the six-man government negotiating team, said during an address in congress.

President Juan Manuel Santos said from the very beginning he did not want the talks to drag on indefinitely, putting a November limit on completion. He has since loosened the target date to year-end or some months later.

Meanwhile, the militants have continued to kill scores of soldiers and attack economic infrastructure, putting additional pressure on Santos to clinch a deal. The center-right president took a huge risk seeking peace after numerous attempts by previous governments ended in failure and bolstered the group’s fighting force. The talks have already dominated his agenda and threaten to overwhelm campaigning for next year’s presidential election. 
The official agenda includes rebel participation in politics, an end to the conflict, how to eliminate the drug trade, reparations for victims and agrarian reform, on which the two sides have reached partial accord.