Colombia's FARC rejects fast-track peace talks
Bogota, Jan 22 - The rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has rejected government's proposal to quicken the pace of peace talks, saying the approach is inconsistent with the goal of achieving a "stable and long-lasting peace".
"We are trying to end the conflict and begin a stable and long-lasting peace process, and that needs time," Rodrigo Granda, a senior FARC commander, told Colombia's RCN radio Monday.
It was essential that each word written or spoken at the peace talks, which began Nov 19 last year in Cuba, should be rigorously reviewed to avoid future misunderstandings, Xinhua quoted him as saying.
Granda's remarks came in response to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' call for picking up the pace of peace talks.
The FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, has unilaterally declared a two-month ceasefire at the beginning of the talks and is pursuing a bilateral ceasefire.
The government, however, refused to join the truce, fearing that the group would eat its words as it did in the last round of talks started in 1999.
Santos said a bilateral ceasefire will only take place when the negotiations conclude with the signing of a peace treaty.
Granda responded: "We regret the government's decision to forgo a bilateral ceasefire; we did it independently."
Just one day after the unilateral ceasefire expired Jan 20, FARC guerrillas allegedly blew up part of an oil pipeline in the country's southern state of Putumayo.
Government officials told media that the blast caused no injuries, but did spark a fire that has already been brought under control and caused a spill of crude oil that affected an agricultural field.
In addition to the blast, suspected FARC rebels knocked down an electricity tower that left residents in three towns in Putumayo without electricity, officials said.
Calling the FARC's lifting of its unilateral ceasefire "terrible news", Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Monday "if the ceasefire is unilaterally broken, it is a setback for the process" of dialogue.
Ecuador, which borders Colombia on the south, is home to some 56,000 refugees, with 98 percent of them Colombian nationals.
Correa urged Santos to continue the peace talks, the first in a decade to try to find an end to the nearly 50-year-old conflict, saying "We should pool all our energy, our strength and our vitality" to ensure a success of the peace process. (IANS)