HAVANA/BOGOTA (Reuters) - Members of Colombia’s Marxist FARC guerrillas will meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Cuba, a spokeswoman for Colombia’s government peace negotiators said on Sunday, adding a twist to a historic visit to the island by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The meeting with Kerry on Monday will be the first time a U.S. secretary of state has met the negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who have been talking peace with the Colombian government in Havana for more than three years.
“At around 4 p.m. (2000 GMT), the meeting between Kerry and the FARC delegation will take place,” after the Colombian government delegation meet him, the spokeswoman said.
A source at Colombia’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace said the rebels and Colombian government negotiators would also go to an exhibition game between Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s national team on Tuesday.
That game will be attended by Obama, who on Sunday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years.
But FARC negotiator Pastor Alape said he was not aware of an invitation to attend the baseball game. He said that before meeting with Kerry, the rebels would meet the U.S. special envoy for Colombian peace talks, Bernard Aronson, to agree on an agenda.
The United States sees the Colombian peace talks hosted in Havana as an example of how restoring normal relations with Cuba can help its wider goals in Latin America.
Latin America’s longest war has killed some 220,000 people and displaced millions of others since 1964. The government and rebels are attempting to reach a deal that would be placed before Colombian voters for approval, with a U.N. mission supervising rebel disarmament.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, had set a self-imposed March 23 deadline to reach a comprehensive pact but have since conceded that goal may not be reached.
Washington designated the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and many of its leaders have been indicted in the United States on charges of cocaine trafficking.
Additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney