Colombia, FARC dispute details of military clash during cease-fire

BOGOTA, July 12 (UPI) — The Colombian government and the Marxist guerrilla group known as FARC, both seeking to finalize a peace deal, are disputing the circumstances surrounding a clash last week in the town of La Uribe.

The Colombian military and FARC members clashed on Friday near La Uribe, a small town in central Colombia. Though it is unclear if anyone was injured, tensions between the two sides have increased.

Last month, the Colombian government and FARC, the Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia, reached a deal on a bilateral cease-fire.

On Friday, a FARC convoy was traveling in the Meta province to meet with Colombian military and United Nations personnel. The trio planned to travel to Havana, Cuba, to continue peace talks before the clash occurred.

On Monday, the chief negotiator for the Colombian government in the ongoing FARC peace negotiations, Humberto de la Calle, said that the “combat encounter” was FARC’s fault because the rebel group provided incorrect coordinates for its location — citing chief FARC negotiator Iván Márquez’s comments, which he said were an admission of the group’s culpability.

Later on Monday, Márquez denied his counterpart’s statements.

“Military attack in Uribe was against unit … that was supposed to travel to Havana,” Márquez said in a statement. “It wasn’t an error because the attack came with the certainty that the FARC would be at the site with a white flag.”

Peace talks have been taking place between the government and FARC in Havana since 2012. The sides in June said they were able to overcome the most contentious aspect of the negotiations: the disarmament of the 7,000-strong guerilla group and details of the transition of its members into civilian life. In the early 2000s, about 17,000 militants fought for FARC.

A final peace agreement that will end the 52-year Colombian conflict is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

More than 220,000 people have died and some 5 million have been internally displaced since FARC’s founding in 1964. The militant rebel group has been involved in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency campaign.

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