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Colombia, FARC rebels to start peace talks in Norway

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Wed October 17, 2012
The Colombian government's head of negotiators Humberto de la Calle boards a plane to Oslo, Norway on October 16, 2012.
The Colombian government's head of negotiators Humberto de la Calle boards a plane to Oslo, Norway on October 16, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The talks will begin in Oslo and then move to Havana
  • Colombia's president says the outlook is good
  • The president says there will be no cease-fire while the two are in talks
  • The two sides have been a war since the 1960s

(CNN) -- Talks aimed at ending 50 years of fighting between FARC guerrillas and Colombian forces are expected to take place Wednesday in Norway.

In an interview last month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he was hopeful about the prospect for peace. The sides were able to negotiate a "short" and "pragmatic" agenda for the talks, he said.

Santos said he has been thinking about the possibility of peace ever since the FARC's military commander was killed in 2010.

Read more: Five facts about Colombia's FARC rebels

Colombia's president on FARC

A developing economy and the military successes Colombia has scored against the FARC make it a good time for negotiations, according to Santos.

After starting in Oslo, the talks will move to Havana, Cuba.

Peace talks between the rebels -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC -- and the government have occurred sporadically since the 1980s. The last attempt fell apart in 2002. Then-President Andres Pastrana ceded an area the size of Switzerland to the guerrilla group but ended negotiations after rebels launched a series of attacks across the country in an apparent bid to strengthen their position.

The two sides have been at war since the 1960s, making it Latin America's oldest insurgency.

Santos said the group must be permitted to participate in the political process.

Read more: FARC ready to lay down arms if government does, members say

"You can't ask the FARC to simply kneel down, surrender and give us the arms," Santos said. "They will not do that, so there has to be some kind of way out, and this way out has to be you can be able to participate in the political arena. This is a way any conflict is settled, not only the Colombian conflict."

Yet, the president has said their will be no cease-fire while the two sides are in talks, though the rebels have said they would ask for one.

"I've told them there will be cease-fire and we will stop any military operation when we reach a final agreement," Santos said. "And if I see that there's no progress, that they are simply trying to buy time, I will stand up and continue business as usual. And that's why there's no cease-fire, no decrease in our military operations, and my government agenda will continue as it was until then."

Read more: Colombian rebels free French journalist

The rebels continue to carry out kidnappings and attack security forces, though it has been severely weakened in recent years, thanks in part to a U.S.-backed security campaign.

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 in September. "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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