Colombia peace deal: Historic agreement is signed

The Colombian government and left-wing Farc rebels have signed a historic agreement that formally brings an end to 52 years of civil war.

The rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, apologised to “all the victims of the conflict” and was greeted by cheers and applause.

He said: “I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we have caused during this war.”

Guests dressed in white at the ceremony in Cartagena, to symbolise peace.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and leaders of Latin American countries were among those present.

The last of the major Cold War conflicts killed 260,000 people and left six million internally displaced.

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President Juan Manuel Santos said: “We will achieve any goal, overcome any hurdle and turn our nation into a country we’ve always dreamed of – a country in peace.”
Image copyright AP
Image caption The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, second from left, and the rebel leader Timochenko, right, watched as the president signed the historic deal

Timochenko said the Farc, a group founded as the armed wing of the Communist Party in 1964, is leaving armed conflict behind and moving in to peaceful politics.

“No-one should doubt that we are moving into politics without arms,” he said.

“Let us all be prepared to disarm our hearts.”

The president and Timochenko used a pen made from a bullet to sign the deal.

The deal must pass a referendum on Sunday before it can pass into law. Polls indicate the majority of Colombians will vote for it, although there has been some opposition, led by two ex-presidents.
Image copyright AP
Image caption Timochenko travelled to Cartagena on Saturday for the historic ceremony
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Relatives of people kidnapped and murdered by Farc rebels are attending the ceremony
Image copyright EPA
Image caption UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Cartagena for the signing ceremony

Under the deal, the Farc will be relaunched as a political party. The entire peace agreement will be put to Colombian voters in a popular vote on 2 October.

It comes after four years of talks in Havana, Cuba, between President Santos and Timochenko.

About 2,500 foreign and local dignitaries witnessed the signing ceremony in the walled, colonial city of Cartagena.

The president said the decision to use a bullet-pen was intended to illustrate Colombia’s transition from a country of bullets into a country of “education and future”.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Correspondents say most Colombians are expected to support the deal – these supporters have made a sign of the Spanish word for “peace”
Image copyright AP
Image caption But some people are opposed to it – demonstrations against the deal were held in Cartagena on Monday

Correspondents say President Santos has risked his political future on the success of the peace deal.

Dignitaries attending the ceremony include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban President Raul Castro.

“This step that your country is going to take is a giant step,” Mr Kerry said as he arrived in the country.

He praised the efforts of Mr Santos to secure the deal and and pledged $390m (£300m) to help implement it.

The US is not yet ready to remove the Farc from its list of terrorist organisations, he said, but is prepared to review that sanction once the peace agreement is up and running.

However, only hours before the signing, the EU announced it was removing the Farc from its list.

“This decision will allow us to support the post-conflict programme and will be of benefit to all Colombians,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on social media.
Media captionJuan Manuel Santos: “The signature of the deal is simply the end of the conflict then the hard work starts”

Correspondents say that although there is widespread hope that the deal may bring an end to the kidnappings and bloodshed that have blighted Colombia over five decades, it has also led to divisions in Latin America’s fourth-biggest economy.

Some are angry that it allows rebels to enter parliament without serving time in prison.

Farc rebels must now hand over weapons to the UN within 180 days.