The leader of Colombia’s largest armed rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), announced on Tuesday that he ordered all units of the organisation in September to halt the buying of arms in an attempt to scale down the conflict with the Colombian army.
"On Sept. 30, 2015, I gave the order to suspend arms and munitions purchases by all units," Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, known as "Timochenko," said in a message, including "#DesescalamientoYa" (de-escalation now), on Twitter addressed to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The leftist FARC and Colombian government have been engaged in peace talks for three years. The talks started in the Cuban capital, Havana, in November 2012.
Both the rebel group and the government say they are expecting to sign a final accord by March 23, 2016.
The aim of the peace talks is for the rebel group to give up their armed struggle and join the legal political process.
Almost 220,000 people have died since Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia began its armed struggle in 1964.
Timochenko’s announcement, accompanied by a tweet to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, came a few days before the third anniversary of the beginning of the FARC’s peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana.
— Timoleón Jiménez (@Timochenko_FARC) November 10, 2015
In the peace process, both sides have reached preliminary accords on four broad points on the agenda, which include the political participation of the rebels, land rights, drug trafficking, and transitional justice.
Transitional justice, considered one of the thorniest issues on the agenda, is about how rebels who have been found guilty will be punished.
On Sept. 23, Santos and Timochenko shook hands for the first time and announced a deal on transitional justice. Santos set a deadline of six months, until March 23, 2016, for the signing of a final peace agreement.
The rebels said that they would like to sign a peace deal even before that date.
However, a number of issues still remain for the implementation of the agreement and both sides are working on them. There will be a referendum for Colombian people to approve a final deal.
Last month, both Santos and the rebels showed their intention to sign the peace deal before March 23.
Santos announced that he requested to join FARC in a bilateral and indefinite ceasefire beginning in January 2016 if there is significant progress in the negotiations.
In response to Santos’ request, FARC suggested that the ceasefire could take place on Dec. 16.
The issue is now being debated in Cuba.
Santos also halted radio and television campaigns to encourage the rebels to leave the FARC to show his ‘goodwill gesture’.
Demobilisation campaigns are usually promoted a few weeks before Christmas.