Press Room: Press Releases

CIP Statement on Bush Administration Refusal to Participate in Peace Talks

Adam Isacson

02-27-01

One negotiates with enemies, not with friends

The Center for International Policy wishes to express its dismay that the Bush Administration has refused to accept Colombian President Andrés Pastrana's invitation to a special session of the Bogotá government's peace talks with the FARC guerrillas.

During his trip to Washington this week, President Pastrana on several occasions reiterated the invitation, first made in a written declaration from FARC and government negotiators on February 23, for U.S. government representatives to attend a March 8 "meeting of friendly countries" at the site of the peace dialogues. Twenty-six other countries were also invited to this meeting, and most have indicated their willingness to attend as a show of support for the talks.

The presence of U.S. government representatives would have sent a powerful message of support for the effort to bring the conflict with the FARC to a negotiated settlement. It would have served as important backing for Mr. Pastrana, who has risked much to move the FARC talks forward. "It is important that the United States be there to directly exchange points of view," Pastrana said on February 26.

Washington's official reason for boycotting the March 8 meeting is the pending case of a FARC front's February 1999 murders of three U.S. indigenous-rights activists in northeastern Colombia. U.S. policy forbids contact with FARC members - even in the presence or at the invitation of Colombian government officials - until those responsible for the murders are turned over to Colombian authorities. Since the FARC is very unlikely to turn its members over to a government that it considers a military opponent, the effect of the current policy is an indefinite cutoff of all official U.S. contact with the FARC, even though the group's dialogues with Bogotá continue.

The Center for International Policy joins in a forceful condemnation of the 1999 murders, and reiterates its call on the FARC to cease immediately its pattern of systematic violation of international humanitarian law.

We also note, however, that several murders of U.S. citizens did not prevent the Reagan Administration from pouring aid on El Salvador's military during the 1980s. We also recall the words of the mother of Terence Freitas, one of the FARC's victims, who wrote in the Washington Post in May 1999 that "I strongly object to having my son's murder used to pressure the Clinton administration to abandon support for peace initiatives in Colombia."

It is deeply disappointing that the United States has chosen to reject President Pastrana's invitation. Whether intended or unintended, the message received in Colombia will be that the United States has limitless resources and political will where military aid is concerned, but is unwilling even to take symbolic action to support Colombia's peace process.

All wars ultimately end in negotiations. The time to parley is earlier, rather than later.