Alarmed by breakdown of Colombia peace talks, Annan urges rebels to end violence

Alarmed by breakdown of Colombia peace talks, Annan urges rebels to end violence

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Voicing deep regret over the breakdown of peace talks in Colombia, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to stop its campaign of hijackings and called on all armed actors to respect international humanitarian law.

“The FARC's repeated violations of international humanitarian law and the kidnapping of thousands of Colombians and others, including children, are unacceptable,” said a statement released today simultaneously in Bogotá by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on International Assistance to Colombia, James Le Moyne, and in New York by Mr. Annan’s spokesman, Fred Eckhard.

“The Secretary-General calls on the FARC to release all those kidnapped, including former governor Alan Jara, who was seized at gunpoint from a UN vehicle,” the statement said. It stressed that continued FARC attacks and their hijacking of a civilian airliner yesterday, during which a member of Congress had been kidnapped, were “clear violations of international humanitarian law and have undermined the peace talks.”

Mr. Annan called on all armed actors to “respect international humanitarian law and the lives of civilians” by ending all forms of violence against Colombians.

“He urges that special measures be taken to protect civilians in the former demilitarized zone that is today being re-occupied by the Colombian military,” the statement said. It also expressed concern over the rapid growth of paramilitaries, calling on the Government to urgently address the problem.

Reiterating his conviction that Colombia’s 40-year conflict could only be resolved by a negotiated solution that addresses its deeply rooted social and political causes, the Secretary-General said his good offices remained at the disposal of the parties, “if so requested.” He also recognized the extraordinary efforts President Andres Pastrana had made over the last four years in the search for peace.