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Colombia's Santos Sees Prospect of Ceasefire With FARC Starting Jan. 1

  • Reuters

FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to the media in Bogota, Colombia, April 17, 2015.

FILE - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to the media in Bogota, Colombia, April 17, 2015.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday he is confident he will be in a position to call a ceasefire with Marxist FARC rebels starting New Year's Day if the fifth and final agenda point at peace talks is completed.

The government and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have waded through a five-point agenda during negotiations to end 51 years of war. So far three items have been agreed since talks began in Havana in late 2012.

The FARC called a unilateral ceasefire in July, but the government has kept up ground attacks even while stopping air raids. Santos has refused to reciprocate on the ceasefire because in past negotiations the rebels have taken advantage of peaceful conditions to build up their forces and re-arm.

"From now until December 31, we will make the effort so that for example we could finish point five," Santos told reporters in Bogota. "And that way declare a bilateral and internationally verifiable ceasefire from January 1."

The government and FARC have been in peace talks for three years. They recently set a deadline of March 23 to reach a final agreement, which would then be put before Colombian voters for ratification.

While most Colombians are anxious for an end to a war that has killed more than 220,000 people and forced millions from their homes, many fear former FARC rebels will join organized crime gangs.

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