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Colombia and FARC rebels announce deal on ceasefire

Bilateral ceasefire marks latest attempt to bring peace to the country after a half-century of bloody conflict.

FARC rebels

The Colombian government has agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with FARC rebels, a historic agreement that could move towards the signing of a peace agreement.

The parties issued a communique in the Cuban capital, Havana, on Wednesday, the seat of the peace process that started in November 2012.

"The national government and FARC delegations inform the public that we have successfully reached an agreement for a definitive bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities," they said in a statement carried out by AFP news agency.

The Colombian civil war between the government and the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced almost five million people during half a century of conflict.

FARC commander Carlos Lozada tweeted: "On Thursday, June 23, we will announce the last day of the war."

The means of implementation of the final peace deal remain to be settled.

The questions of disarmament and justice for victims make the road to peace and reconciliation a hard one.

The sides are discussing designating zones where the FARC's estimated 7,000 remaining fighters can gather for a UN-supervised demobilisation process.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wants a referendum to put the seal of popular approval on its peace effort. But it faces resistance from some political rivals.

To hold a plebiscite, it needs the country's constitutional judges to approve a law already passed in Congress.

The Colombian conflict started as a rural uprising in the 1960s. It has drawn in various leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs over the decades in this South American state of 49 million people.

Human rights groups say atrocities have been committed on all sides. Many families are still searching for missing loved ones.

Peace talks got a boost when the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire a year ago.

The Marxist armed group agreed to remove child soldiers from its ranks as part of the peace deal.

According to government figures, authorities have taken some 6,000 children from illegal armed groups over the past 17 years, more than half of them from the FARC.

Santos and the country's second-biggest rebel group, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), have also said they will start peace talks.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visited Bogota in May to show support for a deal.

She said the bloc would contribute a new package of some $640m to support the transition to peace.

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