Colombia, FARC rebels sign final peace deal to end five decades of bloodshed

Colombia, FARC rebels sign final peace deal to end five decades of bloodshed

Colombia, FARC rebels sign final peace deal to end five decades of bloodshed

Updated 25 August 2016, 15:05 AEST

Colombia's Government and leftist FARC rebels sign a final peace deal to end a 50-year-old guerrilla war, one of the world's longest conflicts which took the resource-rich country to the brink of collapse.

Colombia's Government and leftist FARC rebels have signed a final peace deal to end a 50-year-old guerrilla war, one of the world's longest conflicts which took the resource-rich country to the brink of collapse.

Key points:

  • The deal still needs to be voted on in a referendum on October 2
  • Over 200,000 people have been killed in the violence
  • The two sides signed a ceasefire agreement in June

The two sides said they had reached an agreement to end the conflict and build a stable peace, in a joint statement read out by representatives of Cuba and Norway, who are mediators in the talks.

"We have arrived at a final agreement ... for an end of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace in Colombia," said Cuban representative Rodolfo Benitez, reading from the statement before the agreement was signed by lead negotiators for the rebels and the Government.

The historic accord foresees the demobilisation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose cocaine-funded rebels fought the Government in a war that killed at least 220,000 people.

Tens of thousands disappeared and millions have fled their homes because of the violence.

The deal, currently opposed by two former Colombian presidents, still needs to be voted on in a referendum before it becomes law, but most opinion polls suggest Colombians will back it.

But President Manuel Santos declared the referendum "the most important election of our lives" and said it would be held on October 2.

"This is a historic and unique opportunity... to leave behind this conflict and dedicate our efforts to building a more secure, safe, equitable, educated country, for all of us, for our children and grandchildren," he said.

Mr Santos, who has staked his legacy on peace, will have to fight hard for a "yes" given fierce opposition from powerful sectors of the country who think the only solution is to crush the FARC militarily.

"A positive vote once seemed like a slam dunk," said Tom Long, International Relations lecturer at Reading University.

"But opposition from former presidents [Andres] Pastrana and [Alvaro] Uribe will force Santos to campaign hard for the accord."

A previous round of talks, under Mr Pastrana between 1999 and 2002, collapsed after the guerrillas hijacked an airplane.

The two sides signed a ceasefire in late June, including guidelines on how the FARC would lay down weapons.

Since then talks have focused on the rebels' future political participation, the reintegration of fighters into civil society, and details on how the international community will monitor the implementation of the agreements.

Reuters