For the first time top Colombian military officials will be participating in the peace process underway in Havana, Cuba. According to analysts and peace activist it could represent a significant development towards a bilateral cease-fire in Colombia.
A Colombian military delegation of five generals and an admiral joined the two-year-old peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas Tuesday. The top military officials will be specifically discussing a bilateral cease-fire with the FARC.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, who is currently on an official visit to Spain, confirmed the involvement of the military delegation to the ongoing peace negotiations. He also suggested that there is no one better than the combatants themselves to start paving the road for a definitive cease-fire.
For Sergio De Zubiria, a member of the Historical Commission for the Conflict and the Victims, this latest move is a clear sign of the political willingness to de-escalate the more than 50-year-old conflict.
"It is of a high symbolic value as is the first time that active military personnel participate directly in a negotiation table putting their military knowledge at the service of a peace process" he said.
As the military delegation is not empowered to make decisions, it is expected to deliver recommendations specifically on the topic of a cease-fire, which for Zubiria is a complex issue that requires ensuring technicalities.
"A cease-fire implies the definition of mechanisms for endorsement and oversight, also to decide whether international participation is appropriate or not. In this sense I believe that those who work in the military sector know pretty well both the difficulties and the suitable path for a bilateral cease-fire," Zubiria concludes.
As Colombia’s peace process advances in Havana, the implementation of a bilateral cease-fire has become a pressing issue in Colombia, especially among peace activists.
A member of the Broad Front for Peace Gabriel Becerra stressed, "The peace process should materialize in an improvement of peoples life conditions, particularly in the regions where the conflict has been felt stronger.”
“If the FARC’s unilateral cease-fire has already shown significant results in humanitarian terms, just imagine what could be reached with a bilateral cease-fire?” he added.
As human rights organizations acknowledge the positive impact of the unlilateral cease-fire that the FARC implemented since December last year, they continue to draw attention to the importance of enduring the cease-fire.
Patriotic Union leader Aida Avella said, "We hope the Colombia army finally understands that if there is no offensive actions there would not be defensive actions.”
The encounter between both armed parties has offered strong hope to Colombians that have been demanding a bilateral and definitive cease-fire.