Colombian government and FARC rebels announce historic cease-fire

After more than three years of negotiations in Havana, the Colombian government and leftist FARC guerrillas announced Wednesday they had reached a bilateral ceasefire.

During 52 years of fighting, the war between the government and FARC rebels has led to an estimated 220,000 deaths and displaced nearly seven million people, the BBC reported.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Chile plan to watch Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono sign the agreement formalizing the cessation of fighting.

“We have arrived with success at an agreement on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire and end to hostilities,” spokespeople from both sides said in a statement on Wednesday.

While the accord announced today represents a major step in the establishment of permanent peace in Colombia, it will not officially end the conflict, as negotiators must still finalize details of a final peace agreement.

In July 2015, fueling optimism for a successful outcome from the peace talks, the rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire. Further sparking hopes for the negotiations, Santos said on Monday he hoped both sides could reach a final peace agreement by July 20.

A hotly-contested point in the negotiations has been the disarmament of FARC’s approximately 7,000 remaining fighters, an issue which both sides said they had resolved in discussions.

Santos has stated that once both sides agree upon a final deal to end the decades-old conflict, he intends to hold a referendum on the peace agreement.

Additional details of the agreement will be released Thursday.