Colombia’s peace talks at risk amid renewed clashes, warns UN refugee agency chief

A mother carries her baby through the winding, steep streets of the settlement of Altos de la Florida, Soacha, Colombia. The majority of people in the settlement have been displaced from other areas of Colombia because of fighting and threats by various armed factions. Photo: UNHCR/S. Rich

11 June 2015 – Concerned at the recent armed clashes amid the ongoing peace talks on Colombia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, today said these incidents have the potential to “derail” a long sought peace process, increasing risks for the civilian population.

“After decades of unrest, Colombians, especially the millions displaced, have longed for peace, pinning hopes on a negotiated settlement. Any disruptions in the peace process could jeopardize its chances of arriving at a positive outcome. I encourage both parties to move forward with negotiations and hope that the talks that have been taking place in Havana since 2012 will soon result in a peace agreement.”

Rebels from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been in talks with the government for the last 30 months, seeking to end a 51-year conflict that has made almost a quarter of a million victims.

According to media reports, tension mounted in recent weeks amid clashes between insurgents and Government soldiers.

“Protecting the civilian population from the consequences of conflict is critical to end the loss of human live,” reminded Mr. Gutteres. “I firmly hope that the ongoing negotiations will soon lead to a historic opportunity for the country to overcome adversity,” he added.

However, Mr. Guterres welcomed the recent agreements that aim to establish a truth and justice commission, stop child recruitment and start demining activities in Colombia’s Department of Antioquia. “These steps open the doors to finding solutions for displaced populations and refugees in a way that guarantees their safety and dignity.”

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