The Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) on Thursday sent a message to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, urging him to negotiate with the Colombian government for the demilitarization of two regions, Anncol news agency reported.
FARC commander Raul Reyes said he believes Sarkozy could convince his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe to demilitarize the southwestern municipalities of Pradera and Florida to begin the prisoner exchange talks.
Sarkozy's "good offices will be definitive in this matter to secure the return of Ms. Ingrid and the other hostages in an exchange," the rebel commander told Anncol news service, which often carries rebel statements.
Ingrid Betancourt, born in Colombia, obtained French nationality when she married a Frenchman. She was kidnapped by FARC in February 2002 when campaigning for the Colombian presidency as a Green Party candidate.
"We are completely willing to hold meetings with the representatives of the governments of France, Switzerland and Spain as soon as favorable conditions to do so are available," Reyes said, whose real name is Edgar Devia.
"FARC reiterates to President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French people our commitment to an exchange of prisoners, for which it is absolutely necessary to guarantee Florida and Pradera are free of state forces," he added.
It is reported that Uribe is completely against the prisoner exchange proposition and insists on rescuing the 57 hostages held by FARC by military means.
Formed in the 1960s, FARC is Latin America's oldest rebel group, with more than 12,000 fighters.