Colombia and FARC rebels agree to renew peace talks

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) – The Colombian government and leftist rebels will renew suspended peace talks this month, reviving efforts to end Latin America’s longest running war, officials said on Wednesday.

Colombia had suspended the two-year-old peace talks taking place in Cuba while the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had captured an army general, Ruben Dario Alzate.

The rebels freed Alzate on Sunday after holding him for two weeks. The war has killed some 200,000 people since 1964.

“We consider the crisis over and announce that we have agreed that the next cycle of conversations will take place between the 10th and the 17th of December,” a Cuban government official said, reading a joint statement made by the two sides plus Cuba and Norway as guarantor nations assisting the peace talks.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos halted the talks when the FARC seized Alzate, 55, along with a corporal and a civilian lawyer in northwest Choco province on Colombia’s Pacific coast. The FARC declared Alzate a prisoner of war. Santos insisted there would be no more negotiations until those three, along with two soldiers who were previously seized in a separate incident, were freed. The rebels released two soldiers a week ago and the other three captives on Sunday. Alzate resigned from his post on Monday, saying he should have taken more security precautions.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by G Crosse and Richard Chang)

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