World

Hopeful of Reaching Ceasefire Deal With Rebels This Week, Says Colombian President

Colombia's lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle and Colombia's FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (right) shake hands in Havana, December 15, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Colombia’s lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle and Colombia’s FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (right) shake hands in Havana, December 15, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Bogota: Colombia will reach an agreement on a bilateral ceasefire at peace talks with leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels this week, President Juan Manuel Santos said on June 21, in what he said would mark a key advance in the negotiations to end 50 years of war.

Santos said this week the government and FARC rebels will complete the more than three-year-old negotiations by July 20.

“If the negotiators make a final effort to finish the definitive point, that is a ceasefire and the end to hostilities, we will have taken a fundamental step in attaining peace,” Santos said in a speech at an education event in Bogota.

“I appeal to God that he gives us the strength to finish these accords this very week, because we have almost completed them.”

Government sources said the agreement would likely not mean the ceasefire would begin right away, but rather that the announcement would lay out the details of a ceasefire set to begin when a final peace deal is signed.

A ceasefire accord would likely include details on how the rebels demobilise, the sources said, and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, also known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, may sign the accord with Santos on June 24 or June 25.

The two sides have reached agreements on more than half a dozen topics but have yet to agree terms for the ceasefire or on how exactly a referendum for Colombians to approve the peace deal will be organised.

The FARC called a unilateral ceasefire nearly a year ago and the government responded by halting air strikes on rebel camps.

Negotiators missed a self-imposed deadline for signing a deal in March, and Santos has come under fire over the past week for comments about the referendum that he had promised would take place to approve a deal.

Timochenko took to Twitter earlier on June 21 to say he was against announcing a date by which the talks would finish. “Setting dates hurts the process, even more when there isn’t an accord,” the rebel leader tweeted. “Although we are advancing, we aren’t there yet.”

Latin America’s longest war has killed more than 2,20,000 people and displaced millions of others since 1964. Tens of thousands have gone missing.