The Colombian government has reached a breakthrough with leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas on Sunday to minimise a decade long armed conflict, diplomats in Havana said.
"The national government, from July 20, will launch a process of de-escalation of military action, in response to the suspension of offensive actions by the FARC," said a joint statement read by Cuban and Norwegian diplomats, who have been negotiating for a bilateral ceasefire since the talks began in Cuba in November 2012.
On July 8, FARC rebels said they would observe a one-month unilateral ceasefire.
Cuban and Norwegian diplomats are acting as ‘guarantors’ for the peace talks whilst Chile and Venezuela are acting as ‘escort’ countries. All four countries called for an immediate minimisation of the violence.
Composed of Marxist rebels, the 8,000 members-strong FARC and the Colombian government have been in peace talks since November 2012 in order to put a stop to the 51-year civil war.
The conflict has so far caused about 200,000 deaths and displaced 6 million people since 1964.
FARC lifted a unilateral ceasefire it had declared in December on May 22 and since then it has carried out near-daily attacks in its stronghold southwest.
The attacks have hit roadways, power networks and crude oil trucks and pipelines, leaving Colombians without power and with polluted water supplies.
The peace talks, held in Havana, have continued despite the ongoing attacks by FARC and retaliations by the Colombian forces.
The talks have already produced partial agreements on rural reform, FARC to abandon drug trafficking activities, and its integration into the Colombian political life.
Two negotiating points remain: Victims and the end of violence.
The Colombian government and FARC recently agreed on the formation of a truth commission that would be assembled upon the signing of a final agreement and would investigate what happened during the conflict.
The 38th round of peace talks began in Cuba on June 17 despite a decision by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to intensify the military attacks on guerrilla groups, TeleSUR reported.
Ahead of the peace talks, there was much hope for peace between both sides, President Santos said “I am perfectly confident that we have a real opportunity to put the conflict in the only place it belongs: the history books.”
FARC’s press statement also revealed a hopeful stance. “We … put aside our disagreements, despite the inconsistencies of the discourse and actions of the government, which do nothing but ignite tensions in the country, and we once again call for a bilateral ceasefire that will bring relief and newfound hope to our people,” it read.