Colombia peace deal: Historic agreement due to be signed

Colombian soldiers patrol the streets hours before the signing of a peace-signing agreement ceremony between the government and the Farc guerrilla group in Cartagena (26 September 2016)Image copyright

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The deal is being signed in the city of Cartagena amid tight security

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

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

President Juan Manuel Santos and rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, will use a pen made from a bullet to sign the deal on Monday.

The president says the deal will boost economic growth and unite the country.

“War is always more costly than peace,” he said in an interview with the BBC, warning that it will take time for Colombian society to recover from more than five decades of conflict.

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Demonstrations against the deal were held in Cartagena on Monday

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Relatives of people kidnapped and murdered by Farc rebels are attending Monday’s ceremony along with diplomats and politicians from all over the world

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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 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, The pair will shake hands on Colombian soil for the first time.

About 2,500 foreign and local dignitaries are to attend 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”.

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Timochenko travelled to Cartagena on Saturday for the historic ceremony

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“The people vote yes to peace,” reads an sign in Cartagena – correspondents say most Colombians are expected to support the deal

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

Who are the Farc?

President Santos: From hawk to dove

The guerrilla leader who talks peace

Female Farc fighter on abortions in the army

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 President 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.

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 relief 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.

BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet says that if polls are to be believed, a majority of Colombians will vote to accept the deal.

The Farc’s 52-year fight

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1964: Set up as armed wing of Communist Party

2002: At its height, it had an army of 20,000 fighters controlling up to a third of the country. Senator Ingrid Betancourt kidnapped and held for six years along with 14 other hostages

2008: The Farc suffers a series of defeats in its worst year

2012: Start of peace talks in Havana

2016: Definitive ceasefire

Full timeline of Farc conflict

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