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Colombia, FARC rebels reach agreement over land mines removal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Colombian soldier searches for land mines in Campo Alegre, Colombia, on March 3, 2015.

The Colombian government and the FARC rebels have reached a deal to remove the country's land mines and discarded explosives, which have killed thousands of people in rural areas in the past 25 years.

The government and rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia “have agreed to ask (Norwegian People's Aid) to lead and coordinate a cleanup and decontamination operation for mines in rural areas," both sides said in a statement after they ended the latest round of peace talks in the Cuban capital Havana on Saturday.

Cuba and Norway are guarantors of Colombia’s peace negotiations.

"Our goal is to put an end to the conflict... so the demining proposal is a first step, but a giant one toward peace," top government mediator Humberto de la Calle said.

Land mines killed or wounded 11,043 people, including 4,226 civilians, between 1990 and 2015, the Colombian government says.

FARC representatives said on Saturday that progress is also being made on the issue of a bilateral ceasefire.

"The technical sub-commission, which handles such overwhelmingly important topics as a definitive bilateral ceasefire and the mutual agreement to disarm, has begun to move forward at a good pace," said Ivan Marquez, the FARC lead negotiator.

The peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels began in November 2012 in Havana.

The negotiations have produced partial agreements on several issues, but have not resulted in a final deal.

FARC is Latin America’s oldest rebel group and has been fighting the government since 1964.

Bogota estimates that 220,000 people have been killed and more than 4.5 million others have been displaced due to Latin America's longest insurgency.


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