Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called an immediate halt to aerial bombings against the Marxist FARC rebels. The move follows a unilateral ceasefire declared by guerrillas three months ago.
Until Tuesday, the Columbian government had refused to halt attacks against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or to reciprocate the ceasefire which was declared by the rebels on December 18, 2014.
In a televised address on Tuesday, President Santos said he had made the decision to cease bombings for a month in light of progress that was being made in negotiations with FARC, which started in 2012.
The ongoing talks hope to bring an end to a five-decade-long-war which has killed around 220,000 people and displaced millions.
"To start the de-escalation of the conflict, I have decided to order the minister of defense and armed forces commanders to stop bombing raids on FARC camps for a month," Santos said.
Santos also hinted on Tuesday that the suspension of government-led air raids could be extended if the guerillas continue hold their self-declared ceasefire.
"In regards to the indefinite, unilateral ceasefire declared by the FARC on December 18, we must recognize that they have fulfilled it," Santos said.
Santos' conservative opponents, however, said Tuesday's decision is likely to demoralize Colombian troops and give valuable breathing room to rebels who've seen their ranks decrease by more than half to fewer than 6,000 combatants during a decade-long, US-backed assault.
Negotiators involved in the two-year-old talks in Havana, Cuba, have already reached partial deals on land reform, rebels' participation in politics and an end to the illegal drug trade. They are now tackling victim reparations and rebel demobilization.
Following the latest round of talks which came to a close on Saturday, the two sides announced a joint effort to begin removing landmines across the country.
The Columbian government and FARC rebels must still resolve several tough issues - the most problematic being the demand of rebel negotiators who seek to avoid any imprisonment for atrocities allegedly committed by troops under their command.
ksb/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)