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Colombia holds first peace talks with rebels in decade

Norway hosts first round, Cuba will host second

HURDAL, Norway — Colombia’s first peace talks in a decade were inaugurated half a world away on Thursday with a demonstration of just how differently the two sides view the nearly half-century-old conflict.

The Oslo talks were brief, symbolic, largely perfunctory, and held at a secret venue. They lasted seven hours and were followed by word that substantive talks will begin Nov. 15 in ­Havana, Cuba, and will first tackle ‘‘comprehensive agrarian development.’’

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The government’s lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, sought to set a businesslike, cordial tone in brief remarks at a joint news conference in Oslo. He said the government seeks ‘‘mutual dignified treatment’’ in the talks and doesn’t expect the sides to see eye-to-eye ideologically.

His counterpart, Ivan Marquez, said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had come to Oslo ‘‘with an olive branch.’’

Then he began railing against Colombia’s ‘‘corrupt oligarchy,’’ its alleged masters in Washington, ‘‘state-sponsored terrorism,’’ and the ‘‘vampires’’ of transnational oil and mining that the rebels say are ravaging the nation.

‘‘We want to denounce the crime of capitalism and neoliberalism,’’ Marquez said during a 35-minute discourse that denounced oil and coal companies and individual Colombian politicians by name, including a cousin of President Juan Manuel Santos and a relative of one of the government negotiators.

Members of the government team, separated from the FARC negotiators by Norwegian and Cuban diplomats who have acted as facilitators, looked bored and slightly annoyed.

Land ownership issues are at the heart of Colombia’s complex conflict, which is fueled by cocaine trafficking and aggravated by far-right militias that have colluded with a military widely questioned for human right abuses. Colombia’s most fertile land has been largely concentrated in the hands of cattle ranchers and drug traffickers.

President Santos has said he expects the talks to last months, not years, as did the failed 1999-2002 talks.

The Norway talks focused chiefly on logistics, and de la Calle said his delegation would return to Colombia on Friday after just two days in Norway.

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