World Bulletin / News Desk
The United States moved on Friday to play a more direct role in Colombia's peace talks, naming Bernard "Bernie" Aronson, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, as a special envoy to the process.
"After careful consideration, President (Barack) Obama has come to the conclusion that while significant obstacles remain, a negotiated peace in Colombia is absolutely worth pursuing and absolutely worth assisting if we are able to," Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters.
"We are grateful to President Obama and his government for this new gesture and the support that they have given us in this decisive moment to end the Western Hemisphere's last armed conflict," Santos said in a statement.
Santos' government has been negotiating with Marxist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC) to resolve the conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.
In November, Santos warned that the peace process could backslide unless an agreement could be reached in 2015.
Negotiators at the Colombia peace talks have so far reached partial accords on political participation for ex-rebels, land reform and an end to the illegal drug trade. They are currently tackling the thorny issues of victim reparations and demobilization.
Kerry cautioned that the Colombian talks would be tough. "There are reasons this has gone on for years and years," he said. "If it was easy, it would've been done already."
"Now the parties must resolve them because windows for peace can close without warning and sometimes never reopen," Aronson said in brief comments. "The Colombian people are ready for peace."