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Santos sets Colombia on course for Peace to begin in Oslo, Latin America heaps praise

September 6, 2012 (TSR) – Latin American countries voiced their support Tuesday for the upcoming peace talks between Colombia’s government and a main rebel group to end the country’s 50-year conflict which has killed 250,000.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said early Tuesday that peace talks with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) would begin in October in Oslo and Havana respectively.

In a press release, Chile’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “support and solidarity” for the talks and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera named Foreign Minister Milenko Skoknic as the envoy “to collaborate in this peace process.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Skoknic has served as executive secretary of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC).

“The government of Chile reiterates its commitment to peace and will offer the cooperation requested,” said the release.

Chile “will do everything within its power to ensure the process concludes successfully,” to demonstrate the “genuine feelings of friendship and appreciation of the Chilean people for their Colombian brothers,” it said.

In a message to Santos, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said the peace talks should be celebrated throughout the region, adding that peace in Colombia “will contribute greatly to South American integration.”

“Our societies spurn the use of violence, no matter where it originates, to address the region’s economic, social and political problems,” she added.

Brazil has defended dialogue and negotiation as a means to resolve regional conflicts, said Rousseff, citing the country’s efforts to mediate freedom of four FARC hostages.

Rousseff said she was confident the two sides had the “political vision ” to end the bloody fighting, saying “that will be the best way to pay tribute to victims of the conflict that brought pain and grief to Colombians.”

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla praised Colombia’s efforts to sign a peace agreement. “We celebrate President Santos’ decision and are confident that the talks will be successful,” she said.

The FARC has joined peace talks with the government before, most recently in 1999 with then President Andres Pastrana. Soon after the talks, Pastrana unveiled a U.S.-led plan in 2000, securing US$1 billion in military aid to fight rebels and drug traffickers. The talks ended in 2002 with no agreement.

Hailing Santos’ decision to begin “a frank dialogue,” Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said effective peace could strengthen democratic institutions.

In Bogota, Colombia’s three main political parties expressed their full support for the peace talks.

Leaders of the Liberal, Conservative and De la U parties said they backed the president’s decision to pursue dialogue with the rebels.

“The Liberal Party fully supports the decision,” spokesman Simon Gaviria told local W Radio.

“We are learning from our past mistakes,” he added, referring to Santo’s decision not to call a ceasefire while talks are underway.

Conservative Party President Efrain Cepeda said it was highly positive that the negotiations would take place abroad.

He also highlighted the role of the country’s legislators in the process, saying “the contribution of congress will be fundamental on legislative issues” that are on the agenda for the peace talks, including a Rural Development Law.

Issues to be discussed also include transition of the FARC rebels to a political opposition, FARC’s ties with drug trafficking and compensation of victims in the decades-long conflict.

The FARC, Colombia’s largest armed rebel group with about 9,000 members, was established in 1964 by marginalised farmers.

Source: Xinhua

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