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Colombia government, rebels agree full ceasefire

Thursday, Jun 23, 2016,10:33 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Havana | Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla force have agreed on a definitive ceasefire, taking one of the last steps towards ending Latin America’s longest civil war. The announcement heralds an end to a half-century conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the jungles of the major cocaine-producing country.

We have successfully reached an agreement for a definitive bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities, the two sides said in a joint statement yesterday. FARC commander Carlos Lozada tweeted: On Thursday, June 23, we will announce the last day of the war.

The deal resolves one of the final points in peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s biggest rebel group. The deal is to be formally announced Thursday at a ceremony with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC commander Timoleon Jimenez.

The statement said foreign leaders and officials including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would attend. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said this week he hopes to seal a full peace deal by July 20. Tomorrow will be a great day! he wrote on Twitter. We are working for a Colombia at peace, a dream that is starting to become a reality. The Colombian conflict started as a rural uprising in the 1960s.

It has drawn in various leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs over the decades. The violence has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures. Human rights groups say atrocities have been committed on all sides. Many families are still searching for missing loved ones. The accord covers the laying-down of arms, security guarantees and the fight against the criminal organisations accused of fuelling the conflict, the statement said.

This means the end of the longest and most bloody conflict in the western hemisphere and a new opportunity to bet on democracy, said Angelika Rettberg, a conflict resolution specialist at the University of the Andes.

The means of implementation of a final peace deal remain to be settled. Santos’s government wants a referendum to put the seal of popular approval on the peace. Peace talks have been underway in Havana since 2012. They got a boost when the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire a year ago.

The Marxist guerrilla group then agreed to remove child soldiers from its ranks. Provisional accords have been signed on compensating victims and fighting the drug trade that fuels the conflict.