On the day FARC rebels asked the European Union to be removed from their list of designated terrorist organizations, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he wants the United States to do the same.
Santos’ made the remark in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, just days before traveling to Washington for an official visit to the White House.
The meeting with US President Barack Obama is held to celebrate 15 years of Plan Colombia and is likely to discuss US-Colombia relations that have long contained military assistance to combat the FARC.
However, as peace talks with the group are set to result in a peace accord and Colombia will need to reintegrate demobilizing FARC members, Santos said that it would be appropriate for the Obama administration to remove the FARC from a list it’s been on for almost two decades.
“If they sign it’s because we have a timetable for their disarmament and they have committed themselves to lay down their arms and make this transition to legal life. So I would say yes, I hope that they would be eliminated from the terror list,” Santos told AP.
When asked about the time period in which Santos hopes the US will remove the FARC from the terror list, the president said “the shorter the better.”
Santos also said he would like the US to suspend international arrest warrants for FARC guerrillas wanted in the US to face drug trafficking or kidnapping charges.
According to AP, Santos said that US claims that the FARC leadership is responsible for supplying half of the world’s cocaine were exaggerated.
“Any effort by the United States to allow us to apply transitional justice, for example by suspending the arrest warrants, would help us tremendously,” he said. “But let’s be very clear: if they don’t behave, they’ll be extradited.”
The Santos administration agreed to shield the FARC from extradition as one of the concessions made at the peace talks table in Havana, Cuba, where talks have been ongoing since 2012.
The United States has already said it would not insist in seeking the extradition of FARC leaders allegedly engaged in drug trafficking, but has yet to make statements on the FARC’s determination as terrorist group.
It took the US six years to remove the AUC from its terror list after the formal demobilization of the paramilitary umbrella group.
The FARC plan to participate in politics in the event of peace, which makes their designation as terrorist organization extremely inconvenient.
Both the US and the EU put the FARC on their respective lists of terrorist organization in the beginning of the century after decades of war in which the FARC and other armed actors carried out numerous terrorist attacks.
On Thursday, FARC negotiator “Ivan Marquez” appeared before the European Parliament through a video link and asked the EU to demote the group as terrorist organization “with the same swiftness with which we were included.”