COLOMBIA

Farc rebels declare ceasefire as talks begin with Colombian government

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:02am

Colombia’s leftist Farc rebels on Monday declared a unilateral two-month ceasefire, at the start of talks in Cuba with the Bogota government on ending Latin America’s longest-running insurgency.

“The leadership has ordered that all military operations against government forces come to a halt,” the head of the delegation for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Ivan Marquez, said upon arrival at the Havana talks venue.

Marquez said the ceasefire would take effect at midnight (0500 GMT, 1.00pm HK) Tuesday and last through January 20.

Negotiators for the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made no statement as they arrived at the convention centre in the Cuban capital.

The two sides symbolically opened peace talks in Norway last month, raising hopes that the decades-long conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of Colombians may finally end.

Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said before leaving Bogota that the round of talks would likely last about 10 days, at which time a start date for the next round would be agreed.

Negotiations to reach a final deal will likely last “months, not years,” de la Calle said.

The Farc took up arms almost 50 years ago to protest the concentration of land ownership in Colombia.

There are signs that Latin America’s largest rebel group, founded in 1964 and believed to have some 9,200 armed fighters, may be ready for a deal after a long string of setbacks.