Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is backing away from deadlines he initially placed on peace talks with FARC guerrillas, a sign they will likely extend into next year.
In a Monday interview with Caracol Radio, Santos told the Bogota-based radio station that he was “optimistic” about the dialogues’ potential to end the country’s 50 year-long armed conflict. “I've seen so far that there is a will, that in fact both sides want to move towards some agreements,” said the president, although he also claimed that the peace talks were moving “too slowly.”
As Reuters reports, Santos cautioned that he was willing to pull the plug on the peace process if it appeared that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was using them to gain a military advantage. “If I see that they have no future, that there is no will on the other side, that this is going nowhere, that same day I will dismantle the negotiating table and talks will end,” the president said.
Despite the hardline tone in his remarks, he also signaled an apparent willingness to extend the talks past his initially slated timeline. In December 2012, the president said that dialogue with the FARC would not extend past November “at the latest,” but progress at the negotiation table has come too slowly to accommodate this. Of the five points on the agenda, both sides have only come to an agreement on agrarian reform.
While this was seen as a breakthrough for the process, since then it became clear that an agreement is a long way off still, as the two sides still have clashing agendas for the talks. Even though Santos has consistently rejected the possibility of calling a national assembly to change the constitution, for instance, the rebels have repeatedly insisted on it.
Fortunately, as the L.A. Times reports, the president is no longer insistent on the deadline. “If in November we haven’t finished entirely, we’ll see where we are, and if we have to prolong the talks a couple of months, we’ll extend them," Santos said. “Deadlines in these processes are totally counterproductive.”
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