Londonderry MP Mark Durkan says the agreement of a bilateral ceasefire by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-leader Timochenko in Cuba today, June 23, paves the way for a final peace deal to end five decades of armed conflict in which an estimated 220,000 people have been killed.
Mr Durkan, who has travelled regularly to Colombia over the past number of years in order to to support those seeking to end the longest-running conflict in the Americas, said he hoped a deal could be signed as early as July 20.
He said: “I welcome the positive news of a bilateral ceasefire, but have to respect the details which still have to be negotiated.
“While it is important that there is agreement between the Colombian government and FARC, we have to recognise the other democratic interests which need inclusion and input in the crucial stages ahead.
“Many in civil society and in opposition democratic parties want to play their part in helping to ensure that this becomes a transformative process which will emancipate new democratic opportunities, enhance the rights of all, and improve economic and social conditions.
“The international community cannot just applaud this welcome announcement and assume that progress will roll along on the wheels of inevitability.
“We need to support all of Colombia’s democratic interests in sensitively finalising the necessary details to give greater confidence around the future interpretation and implementation of agreement reached.
“People whose rights and safety have been violated and threatened will want confidence about adherence to the agreement and security for their people as paramilitaries continue to threaten them in defence of corrupt and vested interests.
“All the negotiators are to be congratulated and commended on what has been achieved. They and other civic and democratic interests in Colombia now need encouragement and the international community’s best support in navigating the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Today’s meeting will be chaired by President Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez – also known as ‘Timochenko’.
They will be joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Cuban leader Raul Castro and the Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, who are representing guarantor countries.