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Colombian peace talks delayed until next week

Formal peace talks between the government and the nation’s largest guerrilla group that were scheduled for Thursday have been postponed until next week, the government said.

In a communiqué Tuesday, the presidency said negotiators for the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas had agreed to continue technical meetings through the week to fine-tune “citizen participation” in the talks, which aim to bring an end to the 48-year-old civil conflict.

The formal negotiations will begin on Monday, the government said.

“We’re hoping there’s a show of good faith at the negotiating table,” President Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement Tuesday from Portugal, where he is beginning a five-day European trip to drum up investment. “If there is good faith there will be an agreement. If there is not, there won’t be.”

The first item on the five-point peace agenda is land reform and agricultural development. Land rights and distribution have been at the center of Colombia’s conflict and analysts expect the issue to be a thorny one.

Other points on the agenda are the guerrillas’ rights to political participation, the FARC’s withdrawal from the drug trade, the recognition of victims’ rights, and ending the conflict.

The government has said it will keep up military pressure until the process is finalized. Over the weekend, the FARC was blamed for an attack on a police station in Suárez, in Cauca province, that wounded 24 and damaged 60 homes.

In August, Santos surprised the nation with the announcement that secret meetings in Cuba had laid the groundwork for formal talks. Last month, the two sides had their first public press conference in Norway, but Thursday’s meeting was highly anticipated as it was to be the first time the negotiating teams were to begin their work in earnest.

The governments of Norway and Cuba are guarantors of the process, and Chile and Venezuela are participating as observers.

Founded in 1964 with Marxist underpinning, the FARC are thought to have some 9,000 soldiers and considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Colombia.