Colombia’s government has offered to withdraw troops from a disputed region in the south of the country if it means Marxist rebels agree to negotiate the freedom of dozens of hostages. President Alvaro Uribe has accepted a joint proposal by France, Spain and Switzerland to create a de-militarised zone under international control.
“The Colombian government accepts this proposal,” he says. “I admit it involves a concession on the part of the government over which I preside. We accept this change in attitude we’ve traditionally had because we trust the international community.”
The 17,000 strong rebel army, known by its Spanish initials FARC, has been fighting for a socialist revolution for the past 41 years .In the past it said it would release hostages if hundreds of its members held in jail were freed.
French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, is among 63 hostages who could benefit from the talks. Uribe, who has been popular for his hard line against the FARC, has made the concession as he seeks a second term in office in elections next May.