Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced on Wednesday that they will call a month-long unilateral truce if peace talks with Colombia’s government continue, despite the current increase of violence in the country.
Just before the talks with the Colombian government, FARC leader Ivan Marquez said that the ceasefire will start on July 20.
Mentioning the importance of stopping half a century of war, Marquez added that a unilateral truce would be a tool to arrive at “favourable conditions in order to advance with the opposing side toward a bilateral and definitive ceasefire."
"With this we seek to generate favorable conditions to advance with our counterparty to work toward a definitive, bilateral cease-fire," FARC leader Ivan Marquez read in a statement in Havana before going behind closed doors for talks with the Colombian government.
Columbia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter that "we appreciate the gesture of a unilateral ceasefire by the FARC but more is needed, especially concrete commitments to speed up the negotiations.”
Valoramos gesto de cese unilateral de fuego de las FARC pero se necesita más, sobretodo compromisos concretos para acelerar negociaciones.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) July 8, 2015
The struggle between the Colombian government and guerrilla organisations such as the FARC has been continuing for 50 years. Over the years the death toll from the conflict has exceeded 220,000.
FARC previously declared an armistice in December 2014 and invited the government forces to also lay down arms. Despite a promising start, the unilateral ceasefire failed and the conflict is yet to be resolved.
Lately, the ongoing peace process in the country has been hurt by numerous events. Government forces conducted military operations and air strikes against guerrilla forces after 11 soldiers were killed in an ambush in April. In reaction FARC unilaterally announced the suspension of the ceasefire in May.
More recently on May 31, an attack destroyed an electrical tower and left Colombia’s biggest port city of Buenaventura without power. The attack was attributed to the FARC rebels by Colombian officials.
Colombian President Santos last year announced that during the peace talks the participants would focus negotiations on political reform, redistribution of land, ending drug trafficking and reparations for the families of victims of the long-lasting conflict.
The talks have already produced partial agreements on rural reform as well as FARC abandoning drug trafficking activities and being integrated into Colombian political life.
Two negotiating points remain - victims of violence and the end of violence.
The Colombian government and the 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.
Prior to the 38th round of peace talks that began in Cuba on June 17, 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.”
While FARC’s press statement revealed a hopeful stance “to make an agreement that will stop the conflict immediately, without waiting for the signing of a final agreement,” the Colombian government seeks a final agreement before a bilateral ceasefire can be implemented.
Luis Carlos Villegas, Colombia’s former ambassador to the United States, returned to Bogota on June 17 to become the country’s new defence minister. Before moving to the United States to seek support for the peace talks, he was part of the Colombian government’s peace negotiation team in Havana.
On the same day, President Santos told the press “We can say that, in practice, the post-conflict has begun in Colombia.”