Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hopes to bring peace between his government and leftist rebels by the end of the year, he told an economic forum in London on Friday, insisting his country was safe for investors and had huge potential.
“I think that with political will from the other side, we can finish the negotiations and end the conflict by the end of this year,” he told a conference organized by the Financial Times newspaper.
He told business leaders he did not want to set a strict deadline for concluding the “difficult” process of negotiating with the FARC rebels, who are engaged in their first peace talks with the government in a decade.
But he said that a peace deal would have “very positive” consequences for both Colombia and the rest of Latin America.
The talks, which opened in November in the Cuban capital Havana, are the fourth attempt since the 1980s to bring peace to Colombia.
But the negotiations are taking place without a ceasefire and face many obstacles, including whether the rebels can avoid jail before returning to civilian life, the FARC’s role in drug trafficking, disarmament and compensation for victims.
The war has ravaged Colombia for fifty years and has left 600,000 dead, more than 3.7 million displaced and 15,000 missing.
On May 26 the two sides announced a deal on “land access and use” and the “regularization of property” which was welcomed by the United Nations.
The talks are currently in recess and are set to resume on Tuesday with a focus on how the guerrillas would participate in politics under a deal.
“I am quite confident that we will reach an agreement,” Santos said.
“The guerrillas don’t have an alternative. Honestly, it’s now or never.”
But he added that there could be no final peace deal until agreement was reached on all of the issues on the table.
The president said he had received “support from the whole world” in his bid for peace, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.
Santos heads to Israel on Sunday, and will also visit the West Bank during the two-day trip.