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In Havana, FARC rebels and Colombia government negotiators look at home stretch

Colombian government negotiators and the FARC guerrilla group are returning to Havana for peace talks. For the first time in 50 years, momentum appears to be building toward a permanent detente.

Government negotiators headed to Cuba early Friday for continued peace talks with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with both sides expressing optimism that they could reach a lasting deal within six months.

The latest round of negotiations comes a day after FARC leader Rodrigo Londono said the 8,000-member fighting force would dedicate its time to political and cultural activities and cease military exercises.

"Let's go for peace," Londono wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Something of a breakthrough came in late September with the announcement of tribunals to try both government agents and guerrilla fighters who committed atrocities in the five-decade war that has left nearly 5 million people dead.

On September 23, Colombia's right-wing president, Juan Manuel Santos, shook hands with Londono, known by his nom de guerre "Timochenko," to seal the deal and set March 23, 2016, exactly six months later, as the target for talks to conclude.

"We should negotiate as quickly as possible the bilateral ceasefire," Santos told reporters in New York on Thursday.

Santos recently ordered a halt to air raids against FARC camps, but had previously refused a complete ceasefire until the signing of a final pact. This set of negotiations will mark three years on November 19, the longest in a series of peace processes which ended in collapse.

mkg/jm (Reuters, EFE)

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