Progress with FARC slower than hoped for: Colombia's Santos

PANAMA CITY Sat Oct 19, 2013 6:17pm EDT

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Nearly a year after starting peace talks with left-wing FARC guerrillas, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday that negotiations have not progressed as quickly as he had hoped.

The government is in discussions with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to end a 50-year struggle that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions.

Last week the two sides ended the 15th round of negotiations in Havana, with each blaming the other for the slow pace. For the first time they failed to issue a joint statement on the progress.

"The discussions have advanced, but not at the speed I would have liked. I thought that in one year we could have finished the agenda points we agreed upon, but that hasn't happened," Santos told presidents and heads of state at the 23rd Ibero-American summit in Panama City.

"But we are clearing up points, we are advancing," he added.

Talks have gone on since November 2012 with only a partial agreement on agrarian reform, including land for poor farmers and policies to tackle rural poverty and inequality, which the guerrillas have asked for since the conflict started in 1964.

The two sides are currently negotiating the rebels' future political participation, with the government requesting they disarm and form a political party.

They have yet to discuss the remaining four points on the agenda, including issues relating to reparations for victims and the drug trade, as well as how to cease hostilities and implement peace accords.

The government had hoped to conclude the process by November, the start of Colombia's national election cycle, which concludes with presidential elections next May.

Santos, who is expected to run for a second term, has staked his legacy on ending the Andean nation's conflict.

(Writing by Lomi Kriel; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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