The Colombian government and a Marxist rebel group signed a permanent ceasefire on Thursday, putting a halt to the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere.
President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londono of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (better known by the Spanish acronym FARC) shook hands in Havana, Cuba after agreeing to a historic bilateral and permanent ceasefire. The ceasefire agreement was jointly announced by both sides on Wednesday.
Cessation of hostilities between the government and the armed rebel group marks the end of 52 years of war the longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere, which has claimed at least 220,000 lives. Besides the hundreds of thousands killed in Colombia over the years, the fighting has displaced close to 7 million people.
Now that a ceasefire has been declared, FARC rebels have 180 days to disarm and hand over their weapons to the United Nations. The leader of the New York-based international organization, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attended the ceasefire signing ceremony in Havana.
Negotiations over the course of more than three years have taken place in Havana, Cuba with Cuban as well as Norwegian officials acting as mediators between the Colombian government and the non-state actor. FARC rebels have agreed to recognize the legitimacy of a referendum by Colombian voters who will either approve or reject the deal.
A peace deal was supposed to have been good to go by March 23 but negotiators could not hash out all the details of a peace agreement by then. The U.S. is supportive of the peace process and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with both government and rebel negotiators despite FARC being listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on the U.S. Department of State website.
Rebel leader Timochenko stated at the signing ceremony, “Let this be the last day of the war.” It is expected that a final deal will be set in July.
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