Colombia’s government and the left-wing FARC rebels will sign a bilateral ceasefire “in the coming days,” according to guerrillas.
Both sides are locked in the final stages of talks as they seek to solve the last item on the agenda, “end of conflict,” which does not only involve a bilateral ceasefire, but also the demobilization and disarmament of the guerrillas.
Having missed the self-imposed March 23 deadline to reach a full-on peace agreement, the issues of a bilateral ceasefire, the demobilization and disarmament of the rebels, and the threat of paramilitary successor groups have been the main stumbling blocks.
However, according to FARC negotiator Carlos Antonio Lozada and his fellow-negotiator “Jesus Santrich,” “important advances” have been made in relation to the truce and the FARC’s demobilization in designated areas.
“We are have approached the visions that addressing the issue of encampment areas and surely that will allow us in the coming days to reach an agreement on the issue of a bilateral and definitive ceasefire,” said Lozada.
The agreement of these demobilization sites had presented difficulties for both negotiating teams up to this point.
Lozada who has been working for months in the Technical Subcommittee of the End of Conflict believes that the establishment of these areas where the rebels will demobilize and decommission their weapons is a crucial step, so long as it is matched by the Colombian state.
Regarding the abandonment of weapons Lozada said it “must be a bilateral agreement in which both the State and the FARC make commitments in this area for the surrender of weapons, understanding that at no time are proposing that the state should disarm. However, it must abandon doctrinal conceptions of the state that make weapons turn against the people. ”
The guerrilla leader also said they must have clear commitments and full guarantees from the state for the exercise of open and legal political activity by the “alternative forces of the regime”, with the ultimate aim of resolving differences through democratic means.
The rebel commander also spoke about the group’s desire to have jailed leader Simon Trinidad, who is serving a 60 year sentence in a maximum-security prison in Colorado, to be released in the spirit of “reuniting all Colombians that one way or another have been involved in the conflict.”
FARC negotiators have recently argued that Trinidad should be involved in coordinating the laying down of arms by the rebel army.
Despite their failure to meet the March 23 deadline and the recent concerns over the threat of neo-paramilitaries in Colombia, the news coming from Havana this week has been more positive suggesting that the talks are back on track and continue to make progress.
FARC negotiator “Jesus Santrich” said the tension is behind them and that delegations are working in small groups to address all issues simultaneously. He announced that they could deliver good news to the country in the coming days.
“I think in this cycle we have worked intensely, and I managed to think that in this next cycle there will be announcements on three agreements on clearing and dismantling of paramilitarism, bilateral and definitive cease fire and the fundamentals of dereliction of weapons”, said Santrich.
Both sides have been engaged in talks since November 2012. A peace agreement would end a five-decade-long conflict between the guerrilla group and the state in the South American country.