Colombian peace talks end without concrete results

Rebel leaders Antonio Garcia, (left) and Francisco Galan in Geneva Keystone

Two days of intensive peace talks in Geneva aimed at halting Colombia's civil war ended in a general appeal on Tuesday by all parties for continuity in the peace process and a call for international support.

This content was published on July 26, 2000 - 08:04

In a generally worded statement by the Swiss government, which was hosting the talks, the Colombian government, the rebel negotiators and members of civil society agreed to continue the dialogue.

The rebel representatives in attendance were members of Colombia's second largest guerrilla force, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) with 6,000 men under arms.

In their final statement, the three Colombian parties called upon "friendly" nations, which include France, Cuba, Spain, Norway and Switzerland, to save the peace process by organising further meetings. The communiqué pointed out that "continued fighting in Colombia would have very serious consequences."

The statement said all sides recognised the importance of reaching a national consensus to form the basis of a peace settlement.

The talks, which took place at a Geneva hotel and brought together 80 negotiators, were complicated by reports of heavy fighting between right-wing militias and the ELN, according to a senior Swiss official.

Switzerland's ambassador to Colombia, Viktor Christen, who was present during the talks, said that it was also hoped "that the ELN would soon be willing to free hostages being held for more than a year." One hostage was released as a gesture of goodwill on the final day of the talks.

The chief of the ELN, Antonio Garcia, acknowledged that the negotiations had been difficult. Yet he also said that he was "happy that at least all sides had agreed on the need for a national consensus."

"We came here to be heard and we've succeeded in this," Garcia said.

Colombia's civil war is the longest-running conflict in South America. Since it broke out in 1964, an estimated 30,000 people have lost their lives.

swissinfo with agencies

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