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Pope not planning meet with Colombia rebels: Vatican

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis is not planning to meet with Colombia’s FARC rebels when he visits Cuba in September, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Representatives of the guerrilla group have been holding peace talks with a Colombian government delegation since November 2012 in a bid to end an insurgency dating back to the 1960s which has cost more than 220,000 lives.

The FARC said on Tuesday that they had requested a meeting with the Argentinian pontiff.

But a Vatican spokesman dampened expectations of such an encounter.

“No meeting between the Holy Father and representatives of FARC is scheduled in the papal programme for Cuba,” deputy spokesman Ciro Benedettini told reporters.

After meeting with the pope in June, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Francis had offered his personal help in the peace process.

The FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict on July 20 and the government responded by suspending attacks on guerrilla camps.

Francis is due to visit Cuba September 19-22 as part of a trip in which he will also visit the United States.

The first pope from Latin America played an early role behind the scenes in the rapprochement between the two erstwhile foes that led to the restoration of bilateral ties.



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