Government happy with outcome of Colombia talks

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

The Swiss government says it is happy with the outcome of the Colombian peace talks, which ended in Geneva on Tuesday without any concrete agreement. The foreign ministry said the meeting was an important step forward in the peace process.

This content was published on July 26, 2000 - 12:30

A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman, Livio Zanolari, said the talks marked the beginning of international involvement in the search for peace in Colombia.

Around 80 people took part in the two-day meeting between the Colombian government and rebels of the country's second largest guerrilla force, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN). The meeting was hosted by Switzerland, with envoys from France, Spain, Norway and Cuba also taking part.

The talks ended without agreement on the key issue of setting up a rebel-controlled zone in the north of the country.

In a closing statement, the Swiss government said all parties had agreed to continue the dialogue.

Switzerland's ambassador to Colombia, Viktor Christen, who was present during the talks, said it was 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. But he said he was "happy that at least all sides had agreed on the need for a national consensus."

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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