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Colombia’s FARC announces one-month unilateral ceasefire

Ivan Marquez, head of the FARC-EP delegation, reads a statement during the peace talks with the Colombian government, on July 7, 2015 in Havana
Ivan Marquez, head of the FARC-EP delegation, reads a statement during the peace talks with the Colombian government, on July 7, 2015 in Havana Yamil Lage, AFP

Colombia's FARC rebels announced Wednesday they will observe a one-month unilateral ceasefire in response to an international appeal for an urgent de-escalation in the country's decades-old conflict.

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The truce will start July 20, said Ivan Marquez, chief rebel negotiator at long-running peace talks in Havana.

He said the leftist rebels were acting on an appeal issued Tuesday by four countries supporting the peace talks, in order to dial back half a century of war after a recent spike in combat.

The goal of the truce, Marquez said, is to "create favorable conditions in order to advance with the opposing side toward a bilateral and definitive ceasefire."

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the move, but said the FARC had to do more to advance peace talks that have been under way here in Havana since late 2012.

"We appreciate the gesture of a unilateral ceasefire by the FARC but more is needed, especially concrete commitments to speed up the negotiations," Santos said on Twitter.

Cuba and Norway are acting as so-called "guarantor" countries in the peace talks in Havana. Chile and Venezuela are "escort" countries. All four issued the appeal Tuesday for de-escalation.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had been observing a unilateral ceasefire since December and it led to relative calm.

But clashes resumed in mid-April, following an ambush by the rebels that left 11 soldiers dead. Each side blames the other for the escalation. The FARC ended their truce in May.

Since then, about 30 rebels have been killed in army operations and recent surveys show the public to be wary about the peace process.

Two soldiers were killed, two wounded and a fifth reported missing in southern Colombia on Tuesday following attacks that were believed to have been carried out by the FARC.

Meanwhile, three soldiers were killed and four injured in the southwestern Colombia state of Putumayo, where officials said a military convoy carrying a crude oil was attacked with explosives.

Colombia's civil strife dates back to 1964 and has drawn in left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs, killing more than 220,000 people and uprooting as many as six million.

(AFP)
 

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