Havana: The Colombian government and FARC rebels will sign a definitive peace deal within six months to end their half-century conflict, President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday as the two sides announced a major breakthrough.
Santos and FARC leader Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez presided over a ceremony where the government and rebel leaders signed a deal on justice for crimes committed during the conflict, which had been the key issue blocking progress in the negotiations.
Santos made a surprise trip to Havana, where the talks have been taking place, for the signing ceremony -- the first time he has appeared at the negotiations he set in motion and has staked his presidency on successfully concluding.
He said he and Timochenko "have agreed that at the latest in six months -- six months -- these negotiations must conclude and the final peace accord must be signed."
The talks in the Cuban capital Havana, which began in November 2012, had stalled over the thorny question of whether guerrillas will face prison for kidnappings, use of child soldiers, cocaine trafficking and other crimes.
The new deal includes a broad amnesty, though it will not cover "crimes against humanity, serious war crimes" and other offenses including kidnappings, extrajudicial executions and sexual abuse, said officials from Cuba and Norway, the countries mediating the talks.
It also includes the creation of special courts with both Colombian and foreign judges to try those charged with the most serious crimes, they said.