U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
MONDAY, JULY 19, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
Suspension of talks between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. FARC continues to launch unprovoked attacks against innocent civilians. US calls on the FARC leaders to make god on its oft stated commitment to peace by engaging in peace negotiations. US holds FARC responsible for killing and kidnapping of US citizens.
US may provide assistance to Colombian military in expanding its counter-narcotics role.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 93
MONDAY, JULY 19, 1999 12:55 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
QUESTION: On Colombia, do you have any reaction to the new suspension of the talks?
MR. RUBIN: We understand that the government of Colombia and the FARC have agreed to postpone the start of peace negotiations until they agree on the composition of the international monitoring committee for the demilitarized zone. A negotiated settlement remains the most viable way to achieve peace in Colombia.
The US remains staunch in our support of President Pastrana and his personal commitment to end nearly 40 years of internal conflict. The FARC's cynical manipulation of the peace process must end immediately. In spite of protestations of concern for the fate of the Colombian people, the FARC continues to launch bloody, unprovoked attacks that result in numerous casualties not only of Colombian security forces, but also of many innocent men, women and children. The blame for the failure of the peace talks to proceed squarely on the shoulders of FARC leaders Manuel Marulanda and Jorge Brisenjo. They are personally responsible for this setback.
Despite protestations and claims of a desire for peace, the FARC has continued to kidnap and brutally murder Colombians, US citizens and other foreign nationals. The cold-blooded FARC murderers of the three US citizen non-governmental workers on March 4 remain free. The FARC has also failed to clarify the whereabouts of numerous kidnap victims, both Colombian and foreign nationals.
As a show of good faith in the talks, we call on the FARC to stop all kidnapping and murders of civilians. We call on the FARC to finally make good on its oft stated commitment to peace by engaging immediately in substantive peace negotiations with the government of Colombia so that national reconciliation and a durable peace can be achieved.
QUESTION: Isn't the US threatening to participate in the aid for the peace talks? Is the Pastrana Administration asking again?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any new requests, new changes in strategy by the Pastrana Administration. We've said we'd be prepared to be helpful to their requests. I would ask you to ask them if they have any new requests before I mention them.
QUESTION: That was quite an impressive string of invective. I don't recall you - I haven't been here that long - but I don't recall you ever going that far in condemnation of the FARC. What is it that broke the camel's back here at the State Department that's --
MR. RUBIN: Well, look, this is an organization that's responsible for the killing and kidnapping of Americans. This is an organization that is a terrorist organization on our list of terrorist organizations. And I can assure you that my predecessors matched or exceeded my words in terms of general disdain for an organization that constantly makes claims but then refuses to implement them and continues its murderous policies.
QUESTION: Yes, but not too long ago the US Government had contact with this group and --
MR. RUBIN: Right. And subsequently they kidnapped Americans.
QUESTION: Right. But is it just the failure - the suspension of the peace talks now that leads to this?
MR. RUBIN: I think it's a pattern of behavior; a pattern of phony rhetoric not being matched by serious willingness to engage in serious efforts. These peace talks were originally scheduled to begin on July 7; they were postponed until July 20; and now they have been postponed again for the reasons that I have stated. So this is our view of the current situation and I don't intend to give an exegesis of why we take every view. I think the view is quite clear and that it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Last week the Defense Minister of Colombia was in this building having a meeting with Under Secretary Pickering. They are asking for $250 million in military aid for the next two years; in other words, $500 million. What was the response of the State Department to this request?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know whether those requests were issued and what our response was. I'll try to get that information for you.
MR. RUBIN: Just to respond to your previous question on the Minister of Defense from Colombia's visit, Acting Assistant Secretary Romero had an excellent meeting with the new Colombian Minister of Defense, Luis Fernando Ramirez and Chief of Staff Fernando Tapias on July 15. They discussed the peace process, human rights and counter-narcotics.
The Minister presented a plan on the military's role in the fight against drugs and how their role might be increased. Included with this plan was a hypothetical list of potential programs and items which the US might be able to provide to assist the Colombian military in expanding its counter-narcotics role. We will be studying the Colombian proposals. We understand the Colombians also briefed members of the Congress on this plan.
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