Tour - Colombia
The Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels have announced that they have reached a deal on a bilateral ceasefire that would be the last major step toward ending one of the world’s longest wars.
“We have arrived with success at an agreement on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire and end to hostilities,” both sides said in a statement read to media in Havana.
The accord will be signed on Thursday in Havana by President Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko.
President Juan Manuel Santos will travel to Cuba on Thursday for the announcement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced he would also be present to witness the signing of the deal. The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Chile, the three countries sponsoring the almost four-year-old peace talks in Havana, were also expected, and the Obama administration will send its special envoy to the talks, former diplomat Bernard Aronson. Colombia’s conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964. But a 15-year, US-backed military offensive thinned the rebels’ ranks and forced its ageing leaders to the negotiating table in 2012.
Momentum had been building towards a breakthrough after Santos said this week that he hoped to end a half-century of bloodshed by 20 July. But Wednesday’s agreement went further than expected, removing all doubt that a final deal is around the corner. The ceasefire, which includes terms for the Farc’s demobilization and laying down of arms, will not begin until the final deal is signed. In addition to announcing a framework for the ceasefire, both sides said they agreed on how the Farc’s estimated 7,000 fighters will demobilise and hand over their weapons, as well as the security guarantees that will be provided to leftist activists after the conflict ends. Negotiators in January tasked the UN with monitoring adherence to an eventual ceasefire and resolving disputes emerging from the demobilisation.
With the latest advances, only a few minor pending items remain, the biggest being how the final deal will be ratified and given legal force so that it will not unravel should a more conservative government succeed Santos, who leaves office in 2018. Santos has vowed to put the deal to a referendum so Colombians can express their opinion. Opinion polls show the Farc are widely despised among conservative Colombians and frustration with the rebels has grown as the talks have dragged on, making reconciliation seem more distant. The peace talks have been bumpy and extended much longer than Santos or anyone else anticipated. But if a final deal is reached it would bring an end to Latin America’s last major insurgency, one accused of being a major supplier of cocaine to the US, though the much-smaller and more recalcitrant National Liberation Army has a toehold in some areas and could fill the void left by the Farc.
The Farc called a unilateral ceasefire nearly a year ago and the government responded by halting airstrikes on rebel camps. Negotiators missed a self-imposed deadline for signing the final accord in March. The group of about 8,000 combatants, down from 17,000 in its heyday, is considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union. The Farc grew out of a 1960s peasant movement demanding land reform, and has been fighting successive governments ever since.