Colombia, FARC Rebels Reach Bilateral Cease-Fire Agreement

  • Deal will end more than five decades of war once implemented
  • President Santos wants full accord signed by July 20

The Colombian government reached an agreement to end hostilities with the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, bringing an end to more than 50 years of war once implemented.

The accord includes a bilateral cease-fire, disarmament and security guarantees for the Marxist rebels, according to a joint statement sent by email, issues that have bogged down peace talks that started late-2012. A full peace accord should be achievable within two months, said Jorge Restrepo, director of the CERAC research institution that specializes in armed conflicts.

“We are reaching the point of no return,” Restrepo said by phone. Now that “the FARC has committed to abandon violence and lay down their weapons with a credible and verifiable timetable, all those outstanding points, although difficult, won’t create an impasse to block the completion of a final agreement.”

Colombia’s insurgency, the longest running in Latin America, has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. While President Juan Manuel Santos has said peace will enable greater spending on health and education, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said today that it would add 1 percentage point to economic growth.

There remains one agenda item -- “implementation, verification and ratification” -- to be resolved before the full peace agreement can be signed by July 20, the most recent deadline imposed by Santos.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon are among the foreign dignitaries that will attend a ceremony on Thursday in Cuba, where the peace talks are taking place.

In March, Colombia announced it was starting formal peace talks with a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, although the negotiations have yet to start.

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