Colombian peace talks turn toward victims

Sat Jun 7, 2014 12:29pm EDT

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to supporters during a campaign rally for the presidential elections in Cali May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to supporters during a campaign rally for the presidential elections in Cali May 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia's government and leftist FARC guerrillas both agreed to take responsibility for war victims on Saturday, moving forward on peace talks with a week to go before presidential elections.

Peace negotiators meeting in Havana set guidelines for the next round of peace talks, which is about how to honor and compensate the victims of Latin America's longest running war.

They pressed forward with eight days to go before the run-off between center-right President Juan Manuel Santos and right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who has threatened to shut the peace process down.

"Each day we feel closer to the mountaintop, to the Mount Everest of rights, which is peace. Without that no other rights are possible," rebel leader Ivan Marquez said.

For the upcoming round, some war victims will travel to Cuba to explain to both sides how they have suffered.

Fighting between the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the state have killed some 200,000 people since 1964 with many more displaced and wounded.

The delegates laid out 10 points for the debate including reparations for victims and guarantees they would not suffer again.

Both sides pledged to take responsibility for victims, a departure from the wartime rhetoric of blaming each other. They also agreed to clarify the truth of what happened in the war, and to seek reconciliation.

Peace negotiators reached a landmark agreement on how to battle the illegal narcotics trade shortly before the first round of balloting on May 25.

Since the talks began in November 2012 they have also reached partial deals on land use and the legal political status of the FARC after the war. A final topic would be disarmament and the end to the conflict, after which the two sides would review all five partial agreements.

Any final peace deal would then be put before Colombian voters for approval.

(Reporting by Rosa Tania Vald├ęs; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Stephen Powell)

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