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Colombia, FARC sign landmark reparations agreement

The Marxist rebels and Colombian government have agreed on a key item concerning reparations for war victims. The president hailed the accord, saying both parties "have never been so close to a definitive agreement."

The Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Tuesday signed an agreement on paying reparations to victims of Latin America's longest conflict.

"The national government and the FARC rebels have agreed to create an integral system of justice and reparations…fulfilling our commitment to place victims at the center of the peace accord," both parties said in a joint statement read in the Cuban capital Havana, where the talks are being held.

The agreement also sets out the procedures of a truth commission aimed at clarifying details of the conflict and searching for the thousands of disappeared people.

In September, the Colombian government and FARC agreed to establish special courts that would offer amnesty to rebels, government soldiers and members of paramilitary groups in exchange for admitting to their crimes.

However, the amnesty agreement would not extend to those who committed rape, summary executions or kidnappings.

'A definitive agreement'

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the agreement on reparations for war victims on Twitter.

"We have never been so close to a definitive agreement before," said Santos in a tweet.

Since the talks opened in November 2012, the two parties have officially signed accords on four out of six items put forth for formal peace talks, including justice for victims, land reform, political participation for former rebels and combating drug trafficking.

The government and the Marxist guerilla group still need to decide on terms regarding disarmament and the mechanism through which to implement the accords.

The long-running conflict between FARC and government forces has claimed the lives of around 220,000 people and displaced some five million people since 1964.

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