Colombia names general to head ceasefire committee

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 21 Aug 2014

08/21/2014 21:51 GMT

BOGOTA, August 21, 2014 (AFP) - Colombia named its top general on Thursday to lead a committee tasked with hammering out a ceasefire proposal as peace negotiations with the FARC rebel group entered a crucial phase.

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered Javier Florez, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to lead the committee of five military officers charged with finding a workable deal to halt the 50-year-old conflict.

"For the first time in history, the first time in 50 years of war, discussions are beginning on the definitive bilateral ceasefire and laying down of arms," Santos said, at the presidential palace.

"We can safely say that we are making history this week, because we are getting closer and closer to that goal that all Colombians desire, that supreme value which is peace."

The rebel FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has not yet announced its delegates for the disarmament talks.

Reaching a ceasefire and disarmament deal is one of the key elements of the peace negotiations underway in Havana.

The leftist guerrilla group and the government launched the talks in November 2012, but hostilities have continued in the absence of a ceasefire.

After a presidential election widely seen as a referendum on the peace process, Santos was sworn in for a new four-year term this month vowing to finally put an end to Latin America's longest-running armed conflict.

Florez, 57, previously headed up the Omega joint military force tasked with fighting the FARC.

Under his command, the force carried out an operation that killed FARC military chief Jorge Briceno, alias "Mono Jojoy," in 2010.

He was also involved in a 2008 bombing campaign that killed Raul Reyes, the FARC's second in command.

In Havana, the two sides meanwhile set up a "historical commission" of 12 experts tasked with tracing the origins and impact of the conflict.

The peace talks have so far produced deals on three points: land reform, political participation for the rebels and fighting the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

The other points left to resolve are reparations for victims and the mechanism by which the final peace agreement will be adopted.

The Colombian conflict has killed 220,000 people and caused more than five million others to flee their homes since the 1960s.

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