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Peace deal between Colombian government, FARC wins worldwide praise

The ceasefire deal signed between the Colombian government and the largest rebel group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) won worldwide praise on Thursday, as it brings the country's half-century civil war closer to an end.

The Colombian government and FARC Thursday signed a historic ceasefire deal at a ceremony in Havana which was attended by world dignitaries including Latin American heads of state and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Before the signing of the deal, the Colombian government and the rebel guerrilla group held more than three years of fraught talks in Cuba.

"Today is a historic day for Colombia after more than 50 years of deaths and confrontations," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The agreement sets up mechanisms for FARC to disarm and its transition toward the status of a political party or movement, although the disarmament process will not begin until a definitive peace treaty is signed.

Ban Ki-moon congratulated all the participants and invited all Colombians to make the agreement a reality in order to preserve peace in the country and the region.

"Let us work together to make the promise of peace sealed today in Havana a reality," said Ban.

Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also welcomed the signing of the ceasefire agreement on Thursday.

"We celebrate this historic landmark in Colombia's peace process, as well as the roadmap for the guerrilla's demobilization announced today," said Gurria in a statement, adding the signing of the agreement "will enhance Colombia's accession process to the OECD."

"Although challenging issues remain as the two sides continue negotiating a final peace agreement, today's announcement represents important progress in ending Colombia's 52-year conflict," said Susan Rice, U.S. President Barack Obama's national security advisor, in a separate statement.

Cuban President Raul Castro hailed the agreement as a victory for Colombia, saying it reinforced the concept of Latin America as a place of peace.

Besides Humberto de la Calle, the head of the Colombian government delegation to the talks, and his FARC counterpart Ivan Marquez, who signed the ceasefire agreement on behalf of FARC, the representatives of Cuba and Norway, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also inked the deal.

Both Cuba and Norway served as guarantors of the peace talks, and Venezuela and Chile assisted the talks as accompanying nations.

"The agreement brings a lot of hope to Latin America. The moment for permanent peace in Colombia has arrived," Maduro told Xinhua in Havana.

Venezuela is encouraging Colombia to soon begin peace talks with the country's second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), Maduro added.

"We have passed a very important stage, but now comes the time of concretizing and implementing the agreement. In these new tasks, Chile will continue accompanying Colombia," Chile's Michelle Bachelet told the press in Cuba.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who also attended the ceremony, said that Mexico would make its efforts to ensure the peace process, including joining the U.N. Security Council mission to determine compliance with the agreement.

According to the agreement, a tripartite mechanism will be created to monitor its application. It will include the Colombia government, FARC and an international group in which the U.N. and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will play a key role.

FARC is required by the agreement to disarm its army within 180 days after the ceasefire deal and their weapons are to be handed over to the U.N.

During the ceremony, Santos presented Timochenko with a pen made out of a large caliber bullet, the kind state forces used against the rebels, which is inscribed with the words: "Bullets wrote our past. Education -- our future."

Meanwhile, Bogota residents celebrated the ceasefire in various ways, including placing a funeral wreath with a banner that reads "Goodbye to the war" at the central Bolivar Square to symbolize the end of conflict.

According to Latin American news network Telesur, the Latin America's longest-running civil war had claimed 220,000 deaths up to 2012, left 25,000 missing and displaced 5.7 million people.

[Source: Xinhua, Havana, 23Jun16]

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