Peace is a true farewell to arms: Colombian rebel chief

September 20th, 2012 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Bogota, Sep 20 (IANS/EFE) Colombia’s FARC rebels are prepared to lay down their weapons if upcoming peace talks with the government lead to an accord, guerrilla chief Rodrigo Londono said in an interview with Communist Party weekly Voz.

Peace, he said, “is a true farewell to arms”, the rebel leader, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, told the magazine.

Disarmament of the insurgents and their re-integration into civilian life is one of the six points on the agenda for the negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

“It would lack sense to begin a process aimed at achieving the definitive cessation of the conflict without contemplating the abandonment of weapons,” Timochenko said.

The peace process is to begin next month with a ceremony in Oslo, before shifting to Havana for the actual discussions.

The framework for the negotiations emerged in August after months of secret talks in the Cuban capital.

In his first comments to the media since the announcement of the peace process, Timochenko defined disarmament as “the abolition of the use of force, of the application of any type of violence, for the achievement of economic or political ends”.

The FARC approaches the process “with great expectations”, he said, adding that this third attempt at talks must avoid the errors of previous efforts, such as “arriving at the table to demand surrender”.

Bringing the guerrillas to their knees through force has been the official policy of Colombian governments across nearly five decades of armed conflict, a circle Timochenko said must be broken.

Founded in 1964, the FARC once had as many as 20,000 men and women under arms, but today numbers around 8,500 fighters.

Timochenko pointed to opinion polls showing that 77 percent of Colombians support the peace process and said the widespread backing must translate into an opportunity for equally widespread participation.

“We start from the idea that this process will be successful to the degree that those great majorities that favour the political solution have the chance to speak, to influence, to decide,” the FARC leader said.

The rebels will not set any deadlines for the talks in Havana, Timochenko said, despite Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ insistence that an accord must come within months, not years.

Timochenko noted that arranging the exploratory conversations in Cuba required “two years, when it was initially thought it would be a matter of weeks”.

–IANS/EFE
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