Germany's Steinmeier to visit FARC zone in Colombia

  • 11 January 15:09
  • 86

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit a demobilization camp for Marxist guerillas during a visit to Colombia later this week, Colombia's foreign ministry announced on Tuesday.

About 5,700 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas are in the process of gathering to demobilize over a period of six months at 26 UN-monitored camps as part of a peace process with the government reached last November after more than four years of talks.

Steinmeier will meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota on Friday, then head to one of the demobilization camps in Mesetas in the central Meta province. The announcement comes as French President Francois Hollande announced a trip to Colombia at the end of the month, when he will also visit a demobilization camp.

Germany, Colombia's largest European trade partner, has been a staunch supporter of the peace process.

"Germany and France have supported us from the first moment of the peace process," Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said. Both countries will also contribute to a European fund to facilitate peace.

The nearly 50-year conflict between FARC and the Colombian government has claimed more than 260,000 lives and displaced several million people.

The peace deal centers around FARC giving up armed struggle and transforming into a legal political party. It also addresses transitional justice issues and amnesty, drug trafficking and rural development.

Led by former president and current senator Alvaro Uribe, those oppose to the deal decry the loose terms of the amnesty and FARC entering the political fold. Earlier this week, Uribe sharply criticized Hollande for his planned visit to a demobilization camp.

Even with the peace deal signed and demobilization set to begin, implementation of the deal is likely to encounter many hurdles over the next months. There is concern that during the reintegration process, some guerillas may join criminal drug gangs or the smaller left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN). A recent increase in attacks on pro-peace and rural activists has also raised the specter that right-wing paramilitary groups and landowners may act as spoilers.

cw/mg (dpa, KNA)