Government takes first steps toward breaking deadlock with rebels
Feb. 06, 1997
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ In its first step toward reviving stalled negotiations in Peru's hostage crisis, the government has called for talks today with leftist rebels holding 72 captives at the Japanese ambassador's residence.
Chief government negotiator Domingo Palermo said Wednesday that the two mediators are to enter the walled compound this morning. They are to meet with the rebels to set an agenda for talks.
``This will help us define the eventual sequence of talks,'' said President Alberto Fujimori, who has pledged to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The mediators _ Roman Catholic Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani and International Red Cross representative Michel Minnig _ have been regular visitors to the residence since the standoff began Dec. 17 when the rebels ambushed a cocktail party, taking more than 500 hostages.
Cipriani, a friend of Fujimori, said Wednesday that he has held informal discussions inside the residence with rebel leader Nestor Cerpa, exploring options for ending the crisis.
There has been no sign yet, however, that the rebels will give ground on a key issue _ their demand for the release of hundreds of comrades from Peruvian jails in exchange for the hostages. Fujimori refuses to trade prisoners for hostages.
Earlier Wednesday, Cipriani urged both sides to soften their stands.
``Any alternative would be helped by improving the language, improving attitudes,'' he told reporters. ``That way we can advance quickly to the conversations.''
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto has said he hoped official talks would begin by Friday, when Fujimori plans to fly to London to attend an economic summit.
Fujimori met with Hashimoto in Toronto over the weekend and President Clinton in Washington on Monday to discuss the standoff.
The rebels have released hundreds of their captives, including diplomats from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Malaysia and Guatemala.
But they have kept their bargaining power by retaining a select group of hostages, including Peru's foreign minister, the ambassadors of Japan and Bolivia, several Japanese business executives and a younger brother of Fujimori.