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Colombia, FARC sign historic ceasefire deal, ending hostilities in a decades-long conflict

The Colombian government and FARC rebels have agreed to end a decades-long conflict. More than 220,000 people have been killed in fighting since the rebels launched an insurgency in 1964.

On Thursday, President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Timoleon Jimenez signed a historic ceasefire deal that effectively ends hostilities between the warring parties.

The deal, considered the final point of the peace talks agenda before a national referendum on the agreement, stipulates the terms of a definitive cessation of hostilities and the demobilization of the Marxist rebels.

The agreement states that within 180 days of the signing, rebels must begin laying down their arms.

Negotiators added that civilians are prohibited from entering FARC camps, which will serve as a hub for the rebels while they transition into civilian life, citing rebels' security for the decision.

The demobilization camps will exist for six months.

The deal also creates a tripartite mechanism comprising government, rebel and UN-backed observers to monitor the ceasefire.

Thursday's signing caps three years of talks in Havana to end Latin America's longest conflict.

Santos (left) and Jimenez (right) shake hands after signing the ceasefire accord, marking a historic moment for the Colombian nation

Santos (left) and Jimenez (right) shake hands after signing the ceasefire accord

'Last day of the war'

Cuban President Raul Castro, who serves as a guarantor of the talks, described the agreement as a "decisive step forward."

"We're getting closer to the end of the armed conflict than at any time in more than five decades," he said.

FARC commander Jimenez, also known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, said the deal brought both sides "close to a final peace accord."

"May this be the last day of the war," Jimenez - who was born Rodrigo Londono Echeverri - said, his voice choked with tears as he shook the president's hand.

Memories of war

"Colombia got used to living in conflict. We don't have even the slightest memories of what it means to live in peace," President Santos said.

"Today a new chapter opens, one that brings back peace and gives our children the possibility of not reliving history," he added.

FARC rebels launched an insurgency against the Colombian government in 1964, which resulted in a protracted armed conflict that left more than 220,000 people dead, millions displaced and tens of thousands missing.

Watch video 06:35

FARC: Colombia's rebels | Global 3000

ls/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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