BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday that he gave instructions to his peace negotiating team in Havana to begin discussions “as soon as possible” to move forward on a “bilateral and definitive cease-fire” with the FARC guerrillas.
“I gave instructions to the negotiators to begin – as soon as possible – the discussion of the ... bilateral and definitive cessation of ... hostilities,” the president said in a nationwide speech delivered at the Casa de Nariño, Colombia’s presidential residence, regarding the peace process.
Santos emphasized that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are complying with the unilateral and openended cease-fire they implemented on Dec. 20.
In his first speech of the year, the president said that the FARC gesture is “a step in the right direction” and allows Bogota to open the discussion of a bilateral cease-fire at the peace talks.
He said that the Havana talks, which have been under way between the government and the FARC for more than two years, are currently dealing with the last two points on the five-point agenda, specifically the matters of victims’ rights and the end of the conflict.
In his televised address, which was also broadcast via radio, Santos said that while a final accord is being worked out, “we are attempting to de-escalate the intensity of the conflict.”
Santos also said that he felt recent statements by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas, the country’s second largest rebel group, that they were willing to consider laying down their arms were “positive.”