Colombia’s FARC says end of ceasefire a ‘step back’ in peace talks

BOGOTA (Reuters)- Colombia’s Marxist FARC rebels said yesterday the end to their unilateral ceasefire, which was called off last week after a government attack killed dozens of guerrilla fighters, is a setback for peace talks to end five decades of war.

Speaking from Havana, Cuba, where talks have been taking place for two and a half years, the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said peace would be unattainable if offensives intensify.

“Without a doubt the tragic events of last week are a step back,” rebel negotiator Pablo Catatumbo said in a statement. “This is the wrong path and it is obvious peace will never be reached by escalating the conflict.”

“We’ll proceed with cool heads and ardent hearts, we cannot throw away our determined efforts in nearly three years of talks,” Catatumbo added.

The FARC suspended an almost five-month unilateral ceasefire on Friday after troops killed 26 of its fighters, a move that looks set to ratchet up tension at the talks.

The government had briefly suspended bombing raids on rebel encampments but restarted them after the FARC killed 11 soldiers in restive Cauca province in April, effectively breaking the ceasefire.

The FARC, in the statement, repeated its demand for a bilateral ceasefire, which President Juan Manuel Santos has ruled out until a final peace deal is signed.

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