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Colombia Generals Join Rebel Leaders for Peace Talks

Handout picture from the Colombian Government shows delegations of FARC-EP (L) and the Colombian Government (R) holding a technical sub-committee meeting as part of their peace talks in Havana, Cuba, March 5, 2015.

High-ranking Colombian military officers joined Colombian peace talks for the first time on Thursday, sitting across the table from rebel commanders they had opposed on the battlefield and trying to negotiate a ceasefire.

The five generals and an admiral were also expected to provide their recommendations on how to find a definitive end Latin America's longest war, which has killed 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.

They will continue meeting in Havana with leftist guerrillas of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Friday and Saturday.

“What is happening today is historic,” a Colombian government spokeswoman said, requiring anonymity due to government policy.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had long resisted FARC calls for a bilateral ceasefire, citing negotiations with previous governments when the guerrillas used truces to rearm.

But since his re-election last year over a right-wing opponent who threatened to end the peace talks, Santos has attempted to inject urgency into the negotiations, naming a special team last August to pursue a ceasefire agreement.

The top military commanders joined that team for the first time on Thursday. The goal is to maintain any ceasefire until a comprehensive peace agreement ends the war definitively.

Sporadic fighting has taken place in Colombia between government troops and the guerrillas over the two years and four months of peace talks in Cuba.

So far, negotiators have reached partial agreements on land reform, political participation for ex-rebels and an end to the illegal drugs trade. Discussions on victim reparations and demobilization are ongoing.