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Colombia peace talks set for October

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Tue September 4, 2012
The outcome of peace talks with FARC will
The outcome of peace talks with FARC will "fall on my shoulders," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The White House calls the peace talks a "milestone"
  • The talks will begin in Oslo in October, and then move to Havana
  • Colombia's president says the outlook is good
  • "Another Colombia is possible," the FARC's leader says

(CNN) -- Peace talks to negotiate an end to Latin America's oldest insurgency will begin in October in Oslo, Norway, officials said Tuesday.

Colombia's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have signed a framework for the talks, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised address Tuesday.

The framework is a "road map" that aims to resolve a conflict that has seen previous negotiations backfire on the government.

The outcome of these talks will "fall on my shoulders, and no one else," Santos said.

The Colombian government confirmed last month that "exploratory" talks had taken place between the rebels and the government. Santos' announcement revealed the outcome of those talks.

The next stage will be formal peace talks, which will begin in Oslo and then move to Havana, Cuba.

In a video statement recorded in Colombia's mountains and broadcast to reporters in Havana, the leftist guerrilla group's leader thanked the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Norway for facilitating the agreement to begin peace talks.

"Another Colombia is possible, and between all of us, we can create it," said FARC leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, who is also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko.

The talks, he said, "are above all the triumph of the national clamor for peace and a political solution."

The FARC's six-person negotiation team did not take questions Tuesday, but said they would speak to reporters again on Thursday.

"For us it is perfectly clear that the key to peace does not lie in the pocket of the president, nor is it with the commander of the FARC. The true and only custodians of such a key are the people of this country," Londono said.

Critics, including former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, say it is impossible to hold peace talks without a unilateral ceasefire by the guerrillas.

Colombia has learned from its mistakes, Santos said, and military operations will continue against the FARC during the peace talks.

One of the most famous failures of a previous government was the granting of a huge demilitarized zone for the guerrillas, which they abused by using it to strengthen themselves militarily and politically. This time around, Colombia will not cede one inch of territory, Santos said.

Peace is possible because of Colombia's economic growth and engagement with the world, the president said. Millions of Colombians have been lifted from poverty and using violent means to make political gains is an idea that has met its end, he said.

This, together with the military successes Colombia has scored against the FARC, make it a good time for negotiations, Santos said.

"We do not fight for the sake of fighting. We fight to achieve peace," he declared.

The president said it will not be an open-ended peace process, and progress will be reviewed monthly.

The FARC has complied with everything it has promised so far, Santos said, and if the group continues to negotiate with the same seriousness, the outlook for the talks is good.

The FARC's leader Tuesday noted that past negotiations had failed, but said he was optimistic that this time would be different.

"The achievement of a just and democratic peace is worth facing the most difficult challenges," he said.

Cuba's foreign ministry said it was happy to have played a role in facilitating talks.

"A process of dialogue committed to peace and the settlement of a historical conflict in Colombia has opened up, which Cuba supports, being aware of its importance for the Colombian people and its significance for Latin America and the Caribbean," the foreign ministry said.

U.S. officials praised news of the talks.

"President Obama welcomes President Santos' deep commitment to working for peace and recognizes the courage and sacrifice of successive Colombian governments -- and most especially of the Colombian people -- in achieving this milestone," the White House said. "The FARC should now take this opportunity to end its decades of terrorism and narcotics trafficking, and allow the Colombian people to continue building a democratic, prosperous, and just society."

CNN's Patrick Oppmann contributed to this report.

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