Peace talks between the Colombian government and the Marxist FARC guerrillas began in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday, after delegates from both sides trickled into the frosty European city.
The talks are expected to last for months and, if they succeed, they could bring down the curtain on one of the world's oldest armed conflicts.
Journalists were not allowed to observe the first set of meetings on Wednesday, as these were held at a secret location in the Norwegian capital. But both sides addressed international media on Thursday and announced that talks will continue in Havana, Cuba on November 15. Here's our guide to the Colombia peace negotiations.
What Is the Goal of These Talks?
The ultimate goal here is to bring an end to hostilities between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC – and the Colombian government, which have been going on for more than four decades.
The FARC were created in 1964, in an effort by peasants to defend themselves from paramilitary groups backed by the Colombian government that were forcing small farmers off their lands in Colombia's Andean valleys. More than 80,000 civilians are said to have died in Colombia's armed conflict and an estimated four million have been forced to flee their homes. The conflict also sparked the creation of half a dozen guerilla groups, and several paramilitary organizations that defended landowners from guerrilla attacks.
Today, two guerrilla groups are still fighting the Colombian state. The FARC, which has 8,000 members according to Colombian government estimates, and the smaller National Liberation Army or ELN which is not part of these peace talks, but has expressed interest in participating.
The FARC are known to finance their operations through the drug trade, but this does not mean that the group has stopped having political goals.
How Did These Talks Come About?
Both sides agreed to sit at the negotiation table, after two years of secret exploratory talks. However, there is no ceasefire, and both sides are still fighting each other as their delegations talk about peace in Oslo, and in Havana.
This poses a risk to talks, which could be derailed if the FARC takes actions that hurt Colombian civilians, or if the Colombian government kills another major FARC commander.
However, analysts that have monitored the Colombian conflict say this was the quickest, and perhaps the only way to get talks started. Previous negotiations that involved ceasefires or sanctuaries for the FARC have failed, while allowing the guerrilla group to become stronger, so it would have been difficult for the Colombian government to once again push for a similar initiative.
What Will Both Sides Talk About?
The peace talks are structured around five thematic areas. Negotiators representing the government and the FARC guerrillas will discuss the following:
• How to develop the Colombian countryside
• How to bring an end to hostilities and reintegrate guerilla fighters into civilian life.
• How the FARC would participate in Colombian politics.
• Reparations and justice for victims of the armed conflict.
• How to decrease the production of illicit drugs.
What Is the Toughest Thing for Both Sides to Agree On?
According to several analysts we've spoken to, one of the toughest issues for both sides to agree on will be development schemes for Colombia's countryside.