Colombia Enters Peace Negotiations With Rebel Group FARC

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said last week that he is in talks with the leaders of rebel group FARC, in an effort to end a conflict that has been affecting the country for more than 50 years.

Santos' announcement points to a possible agreement, and comes after a congressional enactment that establishes a legal framework for peace, under which rebel leaders can be granted amnesty.

"In the coming days the results of the conversations with the FARC will become known," said Santos as part of the announcement to the press.

The FARC (Revolutionary Colombian Armed Forces) is the largest rebel group in the country, and has gained international notoriety because of its involvement in kidnapping, drug production and trafficking. However, in recent years the group has lost thousands of members who have deserted, with many others also being arrested or killed in military offensives.

Currently FARC has approximately 9,000 members, according to the Colombian government.

Earlier this year the group announced that it would no longer be involved with kidnapping for ransom, and that it would free all military and police personnel that it was holding hostage.

In April FARC released 10 members of the armed forces it was keeping hostage, including four soldiers and six police officials.

Although there have been unsuccessful peace talks in the past between Colombia's government and FARC, some experts have said that this time there is a good chance the peace efforts could conclude positively.

"This may well be the best opportunity in nearly five decades to end the insurgency," said risk analyst Grant Hurst.

However, there are others who are less optimistic about the negotiations. Former president Alvaro Uribe said recently on Twitter: "To enter negotiations this government has weakened security and allowed the recovery of FARC terrorists."

The former president also said that the only outcome of the talks would be unacceptable; that rebels would obtain seats in the Colombian congress.

During the reconciliation efforts that took place from 1999 to 2002 the government at that time lowered its guard against the rebel group, which went on to opportunistically attack security forces and kidnap politicians.

However, Santos has insisted this time that while negotiations are ongoing military operations against rebel forces continue "on every single centimeter of the national territory. We will learn from the errors of the past in order not to repeat them."