Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia's Farc 'to request ceasefire' in peace talks

Farc commander Mauricio Jaramillo attends a news conference on Tuesday at the Convention Palace in Havana
Mauricio Jaramillo said Farc were "fully committed" to a process ending in the surrender of arms

Colombia's Farc rebel group says it will request a ceasefire once peace negotiations begin with the government.

High-ranking commander Mauricio Jaramillo told reporters in the Cuban capital, Havana, that the group wanted to disarm if conditions were right.

The truce demand could be a sticking point as the government has insisted military operations against the rebels will continue despite the talks.

They are scheduled to open in Oslo, Norway on 8 October.

The ground-breaking talks - the first direct negotiations in a decade - will then move to Cuba.

The government delegation to the talks will be led by former Vice President Humberto de la Calle and include former heads of the armed forces and police, a business leader and the peace commissioner.

The last attempt to end the five-decade-old conflict resulted in failure 10 years ago.

Jailed members

Mauricio Jaramillo - known as "the doctor" - said Ivan Marquez and Jose Santrich would be among those representing the Farc, with others to be announced later.

Ivan Marquez is on the group's six-person ruling secretariat, while Jose Santrich is a second-tier leader, reports said.

Farc were "fully committed" to a process that could culminate in the surrender of arms and the demobilisation of forces, he said.

But he added: "We're going to propose a ceasefire immediately when we sit at the table. We have always wanted peace."

He denied the Farc was involved in drug trafficking and also declared the group was no longer in the business of kidnapping.

The rebel commander confirmed that the Farc was also seeking the inclusion of two members in jail in the US - Simon Trinidad and his partner Sonia - on its negotiating team.

Simon Trinidad - real name Ricardo Palmera - was given a 60-year sentence in 2008 in connection with the kidnapping of three US intelligence operatives in 2003.

"Simon Trinidad is the symbol of dignity of the people's fighters of our America" who had been imprisoned "simply for their political position", Mauricio Jaramillo said according to Colombian news site El Heraldo.

He urged the government to take steps to allow him to be present around the negotiating table - but in comments apparently referring to this request, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos later said the peace process had to be "realistic", reported news agency Efe.

Talks criticised

President Santos has stressed that there will be no ceasefire - and on Wednesday officials said a top Farc commander had been killed in an air strike.

Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said a rebel known by the alias "Danilo Garcia" and at least two others were killed in a joint operation by the air force, police and army.

The Colombian government is under pressure from some quarters not to make concessions on security in order to talk to Farc.

In an interview with BBC Mundo, former president Alvaro Uribe criticised the peace initiative as "beginning with security already weakened, the state weakened and terrorism resurgent.

Without referring to Mr Uribe by name, President Santos reiterated that military operations would not end until there were real advances towards peace.

"Let no one tell us we are weakening security, when the only thing we have done is strengthen it," he said.

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