After a half-century of armed conflict, representatives of the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) convened in Norway to inaugurate a new round of peace talks today.
The groups have been engaged in conflict since the 1960s, and for the first time the two sides will be present in a public meeting. Past attempts to secure peace have successfully demobilized about 37,000 paramilitary and guerrilla members, but have failed to negotiate a peace agreement with the FARC or with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army—ELN).
Despite last minute changes to the FARC negotiating team—such as the addition of Dutch combatant Tanja Nijmeijer as a spokesperson—Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has expressed “moderate optimism” about the process.
On the Colombian side, the chief government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, and peace commissioner Sergio Jaramillo have confirmed the Colombian government’s decision of not implementing a ceasefire until a final peace agreement is achieved. “If I see that there's no progress, that they are simply trying to buy time, I will stand up and continue business as usual,” Santos has said.
On the FARC side, Luciano Marín Arango—the number two of the armed group known as "Iván Márquez"—will be their most important negotiator at the table. He will be joined by peace negotiators Rodrigo Granda, alias "Ricardo Téllez"; Jesús Emilio Carvajalino, alias "Andrés París"; Luis Alberto Albán, alias "Marcos León Calarcá"; and Juvenal Ricardo Ovidio Palmera, alias "Simón Trinidad", who is serving a 60-year sentence in the United States for conspiracy and kidnapping.
Chile and Venezuela will act as “acompañantes” to help with logistics and provide diplomatic support. If successful, future rounds of the negotiation will continue in Havana, Cuba. The Colombian government hopes the ELN will also join the process.
Extra: Read AQ’s exclusive interview with Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, governor of Colombia’s Antioquia state, on his views and expectations of the peace process.