21-09-2021 01:53 AM Jerusalem Timing

Washington Calls for Redoubling Peace Efforts in Colombia

Washington Calls for Redoubling Peace Efforts in Colombia

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with representatives of Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels on Monday, urging them to "redouble" efforts for an end to their decades-old conflict.

US Secretary of State John KerryUS Secretary of State John Kerry met with representatives of Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels on Monday, urging them to "redouble" efforts for an end to their decades-old conflict.

Kerry, in Havana with US President Barack Obama, met first with Colombian government officials, then rebel negotiators who are close to reaching a deal in the Cuban capital, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

A final peace agreement had previously been expected Wednesday, but has been postponed.

"Secretary Kerry reiterated to both sides that the United States strongly supports the peace process," Toner said.

Kerry welcomed the talks' new focus on "end of conflict" issues, such as a UN-monitored ceasefire, a disarmament timetable and security guarantees for lawful political figures.

"Secretary Kerry urged the parties to redouble their efforts to resolve these difficult issues that are necessary to conclude a final agreement," Toner said.

FARC negotiating chief Ivan Marquez tweeted that a "historic meeting" took place between the insurgency and Kerry.

Negotiators at the talks - held in the Cuban capital since November 2012 - have announced several key advances in recent months, but a final deal remains elusive.

The goal is to turn the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from a rebel group into a political party, ending a grinding, complex conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people and uprooted 6.6 million people.

Hostilities have almost entirely halted under the FARC's unilateral ceasefire, although a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has not joined the peace process and continues periodic attacks.

The FARC said earlier this month that peace talks were stalled over the issue of a bilateral ceasefire.

Both sides have acknowledged that the March 23 deadline they had set themselves would pass without the signing of a final accord.