Colombia and FARC sign historic ceasefire accord, peace within sight

Colombia's government and the country's leftist FARC rebels have reached a ceasefire deal after more than half a century of war.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timoleon Jiminez, shake hands in front of Cuban President Raul Castro, after signing the ceasefire, in Havana, Cuba, on June 23, 2016.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timoleon Jiminez, shake hands in front of Cuban President Raul Castro, after signing the ceasefire, in Havana, Cuba, on June 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

HAVANA (REUTERS, AFP) - Colombia's government and the FARC rebels signed a historic ceasefire deal in Havana on Thursday (June 23), bringing them tantalisingly close to ending the last major leftist insurgency in Latin America after more than five decades of war.

President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez signed the deal and shook hands at a ceremony in Cuba alongside international leaders.

The deal establishes "a bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities and the definitive laying down of arms," according to the text read out by Cuban mediator Rodolfo Benitez.

The ceasefire will come into effect after the signing of a broader peace agreement expected within weeks.

Under the agreement, the FARC must hand over its weapons to United Nations monitors within six months.

The FARC's members will gather in security zones for a demobilisation process.

The agreement promises security guarantees for demobilised FARC members. The group was last estimated to have some 7,000 fighters.

The sides also agreed to government action against "criminal organisations" blamed for fuelling the conflict in the major cocaine-producing country.

The accord, which caps three years of talks, paves the way for a final peace deal to end a conflict born in the 1960s out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities and that outlived other major uprisings in the Americas.

Mediating countries said Colombia and the FARC had agreed to lay down arms within 180 days of a final peace deal.