Colombia: UN envoy embarks on last-ditch effort to salvage peace process

Colombia: UN envoy embarks on last-ditch effort to salvage peace process

A senior adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has embarked on a mission to help the Government of Colombia and a rebel group avoid a total collapse in that country's peace process.

The Acting Special Advisor on Colombia, James Le Moyne, left Bogotá this morning for the demilitarized zone after he received word from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that they were willing to see him, a UN spokesman said in New York.

"Mr. Le Moyne is undertaking a facilitation mission at the request of the Government of Colombia and the FARC in a final effort to prevent the peace process from breaking down completely," spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

The spokesman quoted Mr. Le Moyne as saying at a press conference yesterday in Bogotá that after three years of trying to achieve peace, "it cannot be that we now lose this opportunity and the hope for peace…that Colombia should become a land of war, of blood and tears, especially when there are alternatives."

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced increasing concern about the deteriorating situation in Colombia and its impact on innocent civilians, particularly with the latest impasse in the peace talks and the recent murders of two activists.

UNHCR fears that an intensification of the conflict would lead to additional displacement and human suffering, a spokesman for the agency told a press briefing in Geneva. Kris Janowski added that UNHCR was "particularly outraged by the murders in late December of two leaders of the Peace Communities of the Atrato River."

"The murdered leaders - Petrona Sánchez and Edwin Ortega - were both dedicated to serving their community, especially children and women, and to creating an environment in which people could live together in peace," Mr. Janowski said.

Peace Communities were established in the late 1990s for thousands of displaced people from the Uraba area in northern Colombia and are a unique initiative to allow peaceful return of displaced people to their places of origin. "They send a message of neutrality in the face of the conflict, and of resistance to the violence in Colombia," stressed Mr. Janowski.