There have been no formal talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RARC) for over four years. In recent months, both sides have made positive gestures towards a possible humanitarian accord, which gave rise to increased optimism that an exchange of RARC prisoners held by the government for some of the many hostages held by the guerrilla group might take place. But following a succession of RARC attacks against Colombian security forces, including one which left 19 policemen dead, it is now unlikely that a discussion will resume in the short term. We have always maintained that the only solution to the conflict is through a negotiated settlement. We consistently urge illegal armed groups to enter into talks with the government.
We have ongoing discussions with the Colombian Government, both through our respective embassies and through ministerial contact, about UK policy towards the country. Most such discussions cover human rights, among other issues. We frequently raise specific human rights cases with the Colombians, including human rights concerns brought to our attention by British trade unions. We have not made specific representations or offered advice to the Colombians about adopting a public relations strategy to counter British trade unions’ concerns over human rights in Colombia. But we believe that it is important for an accurate picture of the human rights situation to be available to inform our discussions with the Colombian Government, British and Colombian trade unions, a view which is shared by the Colombian trade unions with which we have regular contact.