After releasing six hostages last week, leftist Colombian rebels insisted on an exchange of prisoners with the Colombian government, according to messages made public Monday.
In the message, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said it considered the 22 politically-relevant hostages it is still holding as well as FARC prisoners in Colombian jails to be "prisoners of war."
"We hope that this new gesture contributes to paving the way for an exchange agreement that is being obstructed by the government. The whole of Colombia wishes to celebrate through a bilateral agreement the release of the prisoners of war held both in the regime's prisons and in the mountains," the rebels said in a statement.
FARC handed over the statement last week to Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, who went to meet the six hostages released by FARC.
Cordoba - politically in the opposition to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe - had said Thursday that she had received the statement along with the last of the hostages, former regional legislator Sigifredo Lopez. She posted it on her website Monday.
FARC thanked Brazilian authorities for having provided logistical assistance to the Red Cross in the recent releases. They also insisted in their call "for a collective search of a political way out for the humanitarian deal and for the crucial problem of war and peace."
Further, FARC's top leader Alfonso Cano sent a letter to Cordoba to thank her for her efforts.
"Beyond obstacles, slander and official provocations, we delivered," Cano told her.
According to Colombian authorities, FARC continue to hold some 700 hostages, most of them for ransom. They also hold 22 military and police officers whom they hope to exchange for some 500 imprisoned rebels, dpa reported.