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Colombia says crucial moment for FARC peace talks

Friday - 3/1/2013, 5:46pm  ET

Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, stands in front of a life size cut out image of rebel commander Jaime Palmera, alias "Simon Trinidad," who is serving time in thr U.S. federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, at the close of the third round of talks with Colombia's government in Havana, Cuba, Friday, March 1, 2013. Talks will resume March 11. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) -- Colombian government delegates at talks with the hemisphere's largest guerrilla army said Friday that negotiations are at a critical juncture and must yield concrete results, while the rebels said a peace process has never before come so far.

"We have passed from approaching each other to (a time for) agreements," said Humberto de la Calle, head of the government negotiating team.

He said talks have advanced on the recovery of illegally held terrain and landless rural families gaining access to plots, but gave no details.

Discussions are still centered on agrarian issues, the first item on the talks' six-point agenda, and the government recognized that the rebels' stance on victims of the decades-old conflict has evolved.

"We are at a crucial moment of showing whether we will bet on peace for Colombia, transform the present to build a better future," de la Calle said, reading from a prepared statement.

Chief rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez, whose given name is Luciano Marin Arango, also had positive words on the state of negotiations.

"We are building an agreement that today is nearing five points," Marquez told reporters. "Never before ... had a peace process made so much progress."

The rebels said Colombia must perform a comprehensive land survey that includes the participation of social and agrarian organizations, displaced people and people who have suffered from the decades-old armed struggle.

"The victims are the victims of the conflict, and in this the state has responsibility through action or omission," Marquez said.

A joint statement from the two camps said they had made progress on matters including access to and use of land, fallow land, registration of property, and the protection of natural reserves.

They spoke at the close of the third round of talks, which have been under way since last fall in Havana and are to resume March 11.


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