News WrapGet Handpicked Stories from our editors directly to your mailbox

Colombian president, rebel chief sign cease-fire

The bilateral cease-fire requires FARC to lay down all of their weapons within 180 days of the conclusion of a final peace accord.

Havana: An agreement aimed at ending more than five decades of conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group was signed here at a ceremony presided over by Cuban head of state Raul Castro.

After the members of the respective delegations added their signatures on Thursday, Castro handed the document to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC chief Rodrigo Londono, who shook hands amid applause, EFE news reported.

The bilateral cease-fire requires FARC to lay down all of their weapons within 180 days of the conclusion of a final peace accord, according to a joint statement read to reporters in the Cuban capital, where Colombia and the rebels have been negotiating since November 2012.

The rebels` demobilisation, which is supposed to take place in three phases, will be monitored by an UN-supervised international team.

The "totality of the FARC armament" will be handed over to the UN for the construction of three monuments agreed upon by the government and the rebels, the statement said.

Also mandated is the establishment of eight camps and 22 "temporary normalization zones" to facilitate the disarming of the rebels and their preparation for returning to civilian life.

The final peace pact will be signed in Colombia, Santos said in Havana, where he and Londono - better known as "Timochenko" - were joined by Castro and the presidents of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; Chile, Michelle Bachelet; the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina; El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren; and Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also present.

"Not only did we agree on end to the confrontations, but we also defined a precise schedule for the FARC to lay down their arms forever. This means no more and no less than the end of the FARC as an armed group," Santos said.

"We were adversaries, from now on we will have to be allies for the good of Colombia," Timochenko said.

Prior to concluding the cease-fire, the government and the FARC reached agreements on land reform, political participation, drugs and drug crop, and redress for the victims of the strife.

The Colombian government maintains that the final peace accord should be put to a vote in a referendum.