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Colombian peace talks resume with pressure to act fast
by Staff Writers
Havana (AFP) Jan 14, 2013

The Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels pressed each other Monday to speed up peace talks to end their half-century-old conflict as the rivals resumed negotiations in Cuba.

The two sides returned from a three-week holiday break stating their desire to quicken the pace of negotiations in their fourth attempt to end bloodshed that has left 600,000 dead and displaced four million since 1964.

The head of the Marxist guerrilla group's delegation, Ivan Marquez, called on the government to "cease the warmongering rhetoric that accompanies false promises to resolve social problems."

Unveiling proposals to resolve a land conflict, he told reporters that the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos must "publicly commit to presenting quick and tangible solutions that are devoid of demagoguery."

The rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire that ends January 20, but the government has continued its offensive, accusing the guerrillas of continuing to attack civilians and soldiers.

The Marxist rebels have said they will not extend their ceasefire unless the government declares one too.

"We are in a phase in which we can get results for an agreement to end the conflict," said chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle in a pre-recorded statement, stressing that Colombians want an "efficient, dignified, quick and serious" peace process.

Santos, who has warned that the talks must conclude by November, said last month that the negotiations were moving slowly.

The longtime enemies launched the peace talks in Norway in October and continued in Havana in November.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took up arms in 1964 to protest against the concentration of land ownership in the country, but a string of military defeats has cut its ranks to 8,000 -- half of what it was in the late 1990s.

The key issue in the dispute, rural development, was expected to top the agenda on Monday.

In Colombia, 52 percent of rural land is in the hands of just over one percent of the population, creating a divide that has fostered decades of tensions between landholders and landless farmers.

The rebels unveiled 15 proposals Monday to "break up and redistribute land ownership by getting rid of unproductive large estates."

They also aim to "overcome the political, economic, social and cultural conditions that generate violence" in Colombia, the FARC said.

The government countered that the FARC were seizing on ideas proposed during an agrarian forum that was held in Bogota last month to gain political points.

The forum's ideas are there to "drive the (peace) process, not to promote the FARC's political actions," De la Calle, a former vice president, said.

The two delegations will debate the ideas offered by the forum, which came up with 546 proposals from 1,314 Colombian citizens from 522 organizations.

In addition to land reform, the negotiations will include drug trafficking, political participation, disarmament and victims' rights.

De La Calle said the third round of negotiations will last 11 days.


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