Colombia, FARC take major step forward toward peace

Colombia, FARC take major step forward toward peace

Colombia, FARC take major step forward toward peace

(L-R) FARC members Commander Marquez, Santrich, Garcia, Camargo, Catatumbo and Granda arrive at the Convention Palace in Havana for a new round of talks with the Colombian government. AFP photo

Colombia and FARC militants have reached agreement on the critical issue of agrarian reform, the two sides said May 26 in what appeared to be a major step forward for the peace process aimed at ending their long war.

The agreement between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would compensate those who have lost land or were displaced from their property, said Cuban diplomat Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, whose country played host to the months-long negotiations.

So far, the talks at the Havana Convention Center have focused almost entirely on land reform, the first of five agenda items to be discussed.

Land distribution was one of the triggers of the protracted conflict in Colombia, where gaping inequality divides wealthy landowners and poor peasants.

The agreement on agrarian development “seeks to reverse the effects of the conflict and that the victims of forced displacement and looting obtain restitution,” said Cossio, as he read a joint statement from the parties.

‘Peace process will continue’

The step, the first major advance in six months of peace talks in Havana, was widely celebrated, but it is part of a larger package still being negotiated. The joint statement warns that the advance on agrarian reform is “conditioned on reaching an agreement on the totality of the agenda,” because the talks are based on the principle that “nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon.”

Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, a former vice president, said in a statement to Agence France-Presse that what the negotiators agreed upon “pertaining to the agricultural issue allows for a radical transformation of life in rural Colombia.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gushed about the success in a message on his Twitter account. “We sincerely celebrate this fundamental step in Havana toward a full agreement to put an end to half a century of conflict,” Santos wrote. “We will continue the peace process with prudence and responsibility.”

Both delegations will take a break of several days, and then begin talks on political participation, the second agenda point.

Other agenda items include illicit drugs, decommissioning weapons and how to handle the victims of the armed conflict.

The FARC has been in talks with Bogota since November 19 to end their insurgency.

Complied from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.