October 15, 2012 / 9:23 AM / 7 years ago

Colombia, FARC delay arrival for peace talks in Norway

OSLO (Reuters) - Colombian government negotiators and Marxist rebels have delayed their departure for peace talks in Norway aimed at ending nearly half a century of conflict but still plan to arrive in time for their only publicly scheduled event on Wednesday.

Colombian government officials, expected to have arrived in Norway over the weekend, will not come until Tuesday because of “logistical difficulties”, a government spokeswoman said.

It remained unclear when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would arrive.

The sides agreed in August to start talks in the first two weeks of October but had already delayed their arrival once as they worked to iron out details for their talks, which will he held under the principle “that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

Norway, which has acted as a negotiator between the sides for years, declined to discuss the delay and a foreign ministry spokesperson said the sides still plan to attend a press conference on Wednesday, their only public event.

Colombian newspaper El Espectador said the new hold up is the result of a late change in the FARC’s negotiating team, which has generated concern in the Colombian government.

FARC rebels included Dutch national Tanja Nijmeijer in their team, a move the Colombian government refused to accept because she was not a Colombian citizen, the paper said.

Rebels, however, argued that the terms of their agreement allow them to freely pick the members of their team.

Colombian officials could not immediately comment on the paper’s report while FARC officials could not be reached.

A 10-year military offensive has weakened the FARC but has been unable to end the conflict, leaving President Juan Manuel Santos vulnerable ahead of elections in 2014.

Peace talks have already failed several times before.

Talks in Oslo are expected to focus on laying the groundwork for later negotiations and the parties are then expected to move to Havana for the substantive part of their discussions.

Norway and Cuba have agreed to act as guarantors at the talks while Venezuela and Cuba will act as “accompaniers”.

Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, Anna Valderama and Alister Doyle; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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