Mitchell, who also served as America’s Middle East envoy from 2009-2011, cautioned that familiarity does not always lead to fondness, citing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an example.
‘‘When people got to know each other it validated and fortified their mistrust,’’ he said. ‘‘Rather than liking the other side they came to dislike them even more.’’
Rebels in the Cuban capital say that a small core of negotiators who spent seven months in Havana earlier this year secretly laying the groundwork for the peace process sometimes socialized with their government counterparts, including at cocktails organized by Norwegian diplomats acting as guarantors. The parties also dined together in Oslo.
But no such fraternizing has occurred since the talks returned to Havana, in part because of the large size of the groups and because it has taken time for relationships to develop between the newcomers.
‘‘Like always, at first trust had not yet been built and perhaps there was some distance, but with time the gap has been closing,’’ the rebel’s chief negotiator, Ivan Marquez, whose real name is Luciano Marin Arango, said at a Nov. 29 press conference.
Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch woman who joined the rebels a decade ago and is one of the only women at the negotiating table, told the AP it was ‘‘not an atmosphere among friends, but it is pleasant.’’
That is a striking contrast to events back home, where the declaration of a unilateral cease-fire by the FARC has not brought a halt to hostilities.
In late November a rebel front destroyed two energy towers; guerrillas later said the front had not yet received word of the cease-fire announced the previous day. A week and a half later the Colombian military bombed a cluster of FARC camps and said at least 20 guerrillas were killed.
But even through those clashes, the negotiators have had kind words to say about each other.
Multiple participants described a striking exchange between Marquez and hardline Colombian army Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora that has come to define the respect between battlefield foes helping drive the negotiations.
While the two men were talking one morning, the former Colombian armed forces chief suddenly said to Marquez: ‘‘You know, we already know each other, you and I,’’ before rattling off the names of several battles they had fought in over the decades.
The rebel commander agreed, but added the dates of several other fierce clashes. ‘‘You didn’t know I was there, but I knew you were,’’ he quipped, breaking the tension in the room.
When asked at a press conference what it was like to face his nemesis across the negotiating table, Marquez said he respected Mora and a former national police chief as adversaries whose experiences as men of the sword would be valuable.
‘‘They have been good at war,’’ Marquez said. ‘‘Perhaps they know how to find the path to peace.’’
Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez and Peter Orsi in Havana and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, Ireland, contributed to this report.
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