Havana, June 23 (IANS) The Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group announced on Wednesday they have reached a deal on a definitive bilateral ceasefire, marking a major step towards ending a half-century conflict.
In a joint statement, they said they were committed to ending the civil war in the South American nation and this agreement would be a “historical announcement” for Colombia.
The pact will be signed on Thursday in Havana by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon Jimenez, the top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’ s biggest rebel group, Xinhua reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will witness the signing of the agreement, along with Cuban President Raul Castro, the statement said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende will also be present at the signing ceremony, it added.
Both sides in January tasked the United Nations with monitoring an eventual ceasefire and resolving disputes emerging from the expected demobilization of at least 7,000 armed rebels.
Santos said earlier this week he hoped to ink a final deal by July 20, when Colombia celebrates its declaration of independence from Spain.
Once a deal is reached, Colombians will hold a referendum on whether to endorse the agreements made in Cuba between the FARC rebels and the government.
Negotiations that began in Havana in November 2012 have produced agreements on mechanisms for access to land for poor peasants, transforming the guerrillas to a political party, justice, counter narcotics, mine clearance and search for missing persons.
Colombia’s conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.