The rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia's government agreed on a definitive ceasefire, on Wednesday, edging one step closer to ending Latin America’s longest civil war.
The bloody conflict has spanned five decades and killed hundreds of thousands of people in the jungles of the cocaine-producing country.
"We have successfully reached an agreement for a definitive bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities," the two sides said in a joint statement.
The ceasefire agreement will be signed on Thursday at a ceremony where Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Cuban President Raul Castro, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Chilean President Michelle Bacheletry will be in attendance.
— UN Political Affairs (@UN_DPA) June 22, 2016
Twitter-users expressed their thoughts on the ceasefire.
my mom was 3 yrs old when the conflict in Colombia began & when she heard the news about the ceasefire today, she started crying so much.
— Mel (@melissavllegas) June 23, 2016
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said this week he anticipates negotiations to result in a full peace deal by July 20.
"Tomorrow will be a great day!" he wrote on Twitter. "We are working for a Colombia at peace, a dream that is starting to become a reality."
52-year old conflict
The conflict began in the 1960’s as a rural uprising before exploding into a drug-fueled war.
It has attracted a multitude of leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs over the decades.
The civil war has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures. According to human rights groups both sides are guilty of committing atrocities.
The deal includes "the laying-down of arms, security guarantees and the fight against the criminal organisations" accused of fueling the conflict, the statement said.
"This means the end of the longest and most bloody conflict in the western hemisphere and a new opportunity to bet on democracy," said Angelika Rettberg, a conflict resolution specialist at the University of the Andes.
Referendum on final deal
The deal will apply after negotiations are completed and the final deal is signed by both sides.
Santos wants to put the final accord to the Colombian people by holding a referendum.
A year ago, the FARC declared ceasefire, boosting the peace talks that started in Havana in 2012.
Following this declaration, the government stopped the airstrikes on rebel camps and removed child soldiers from its ranks.
Some issues like compensating victims and battling the drug trade have already been negotiated.
At the same time, both sides are discussing specifying a place where FARC’s staff members can meet for a UN-supervised demobilisation process.
"The UN is prepared to do whatever it can to strengthen the peace process," said its deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on Wednesday.
"We hope it will lead to a final agreement and the end of this long war."
US said its Special Envoy Bernard Aronson is also on his way to Havana for Thursday’s ceremony.
"The United States welcomes (Wednesday's) communique, looks forward to the event tomorrow, and hopes the parties will continue to make progress toward a final peace accord," US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.