Colombia’s largest guerrilla group the FARC demanded Wednesday that peace talks be held before they end “acts of war.” The country’s President Juan Manuel Santos responded that no peace talks are possible before the rebels cease “terrorism.”
The rebel group’s Southern Bloc released a statement through FARC-friendly website ANNCOL saying that they were willing “to talk with the current government and find a political solution to the social and armed conflict in the country, but without any conditions.” The FARC stated that the end of hostilities “should be the result of a peace agreement and not a precondition for dialogue.”
The “conditions” the guerrillas refer to are government demands that the FARC stop hostilities and release all hostages before the government agrees to sit down to talks.
The FARC emphasized that their leader, Guillermo Leon Sanchez, also known as “Alfonso Cano,” had invited Santos to “sit down and talk” but that Santos refused in an “unacceptable, arrogant, and triumphalist” manner in his inauguration speech. “As long as there is war, there will be acts of war on both sides” the FARC statement read.
In a reaction to the FARC’s statement, Santos reiterated the government’s position that the FARC must cease terrorist activities or continue to feel “military pressure.”
“I have said clearly that for any kind of dialogue it is necessary that they abandon terrorism; in this there is no place for minor doubt, in this there is no place for minor differences in interpretation of what those words mean,” the Colombian president said from New York, where he will address the United Nations’ General Assembly.
The FARC’s Southern Bloc, which operates in southern Colombia near the border with Ecuador, suffered a significant blow recently when their commander “Domingo Biojo” was killed along with 22 other alleged guerrillas.
In the month of September alone, over 40 Colombian military and police officials have been killed in attacks by guerrilla groups.
Troubled by the increase in violence, the U.N. recently released a statement urging the guerrillas to respect human rights, and said that the FARC attacks may constitute war crimes.