- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2015

The mood will be one of optimism when Secretary of State John F. Kerry meets on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week with Colombia’s president, who just announced a major breakthrough toward a deal to end the nation’s decades-old war with the leftist FARC rebel group.

Mr. Kerry offered guarded praise for the development on Wednesday
night, asserting that “peace is now ever closer for the Colombian
people and millions of conflict victims.” Hours later, the State
Department announced that Mr. Kerry will meet face-to-face with
President Juan Manuel Santos next Thursday in New York.

Mr. Santos and leaders of the FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group,
made headlines Wednesday by vowing to end Latin America’s
longest-running armed conflict within the next six months.

In a joint statement, the Colombian president and FARC rebels said
they had overcome they had settled on a formula to punish human rights
abuses committed during about 50 years of bloody, drug-fueled
fighting, according to The Associated Press. FARC leaders also said
their fighters will demobilize within the coming 60 days.

The agreement came after a round of peace talks in Cuba, whose
communist leadership has been a longtime backer of the FARC rebels in
Colombia. Analysts say the long-struggling peace process was bolstered
by the recent diplomatic detente between Havana and Washington, a main
backer of the Colombian government.

Mr. Kerry said Wednesday that the Obama administration is “hopeful the
parties will soon conclude a final agreement to end this terrible war.
The Colombian people deserve a just and durable peace, and this will
be their victory.”

He added that President Obama’s special envoy for the peace process,
Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson, has “been deeply
involved every step of the way, including in the most recent round in
Cuba last week.”

“We will continue to support President Santos and the Colombian people
as these negotiations move forward,” Mr. Kerry said.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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