Colombia has declared its conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) officially over. The rebel group handed over the last of its weapons to be melted down under UN oversight.
Colombia's largest rebel group, the FARC, handed over its last two containers of weapons and explosives to the United Nations on Tuesday, marking the official end of a conflict that has spanned more than 50 years.
The weapons will be melted down and recast as peace memorials to be displayed in Colombia, at UN headquarters in New York, and in Havana, where the peace talks took place over almost four years.
A total of 8,112 guns, 1.3 million cartridges, 22 tons of explosives, 3,000 grenades and 1,000 land mines were collected by the UN, according to Jean Arnault, the head of the mission in the South American country.
"This puts the country on the path to a new future," Arnault commented.
The handing over of rebel arms is a fundamental component of the peace accord, which also aims to reduce Colombia's booming coca production by encouraging farmers to grow food crops instead.
Access to remote parts of Colombia
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared the conflict officially over and called it "a historic day for the country" at a ceremony to mark the occasion in Fonseca, on the eastern border with Venezuela.
"Now we can develop parts of the country we were never able to develop before," the president said.
The Colombian government had effectively lost access to many parts of the country as a result of the conflict with the FARC, having failed repeatedly to gain control over the flourishing drug trade facilitated by the rebels.
It is in these remote parts of Colombia, however, that some FARC weapons apparently remain: the rebels say that more than 900 weapons were too difficult to access - which leaves them available to be found by other rebel groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's second-biggest rebel group.
FARC to return as political party
FARC leader Luciano Marín Arango, who is better known by the nom de guerre Ivan Marquez, reaffirmed that the group would be entering Colombian politics, announcing what he said is likely to be the name of the former rebels' new political movement: the Revolutionary Alternative Force of Colombia (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria de Colombia) - a name that preserves the Spanish acronym FARC.
"We will be part of the system but raise our voice clearly and sharply against the system," Marquez said.
The FARC rebel group had signed the ceasefire deal with the government in June 2016 following more than 50 years of armed conflict. Around 250,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives. Millions more were displaced from their homes fleeing the bloodshed.
ss/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)