UPDATE Jan. 21, 2016 | United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office issued a statement Wednesday welcoming the request from the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for UN monitoring of the ceasefire and disarmament following a peace agreement between the two parties, which have been in conflict for more than 50 years.
“The mission would constitute the international component of a tripartite mechanism to monitor and verify a future agreement on a bilateral and definitive ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, and the laying down of arms,” reads the statement.
“The Secretary General congratulates the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia on yet another significant step towards the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.”
In another peace process breakthrough, the Colombian government and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group announced Tuesday they would request that the United Nations monitor an eventual ceasefire and disarmament.
Both parties expressed “commitment to the negotiations in order to achieve a final agreement for the end of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace, including an agreement establishing a bilateral and indefinite ceasefire,” said Rodolfo Benítez, one of Cuba’s representatives in the peace process, on Tuesday.
“To that end, we have decided to request that the United Nations Security Council create a political mission with unarmed observers for a period of 12 months,” he added.
President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the announcement and formally asked the UN to create a special mission via a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday.
“Today we have taken another step, a definitive step, toward the termination of the conflict and the achievement of peace,” he said in a press conference.
FARC representatives called it “a strong signal and a happy premonition that the peace process in Colombia is moving inexorably toward the end of the continent’s longest conflict.”
Even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had praise for Colombia’s progress toward peace in a statement Wednesday while in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.
“We think President Santos is doing a great job. I’ve been working very closely with him, and the president has as well,” he said in an interview with Colombian radio station La W.
U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated support for Colombia’s peace negotiations in his final State of the Union speech last week.
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest sign of progress after peace talks between the Colombian government and the world’s oldest active armed guerrilla group reopened earlier this month in Havana, Cuba following a break for the holiday season.
Talks have been in progress for more than two years, but President Santos announced in September that a deadline of March 23 had been set for a final accord.
In December, both parties agreed to a comprehensive plan for dealing with victims and handling judicial proceedings against members of the FARC.
UN oversight could be key to resolving the final components of the peace plan remaining to be ironed out, including how and when the FARC will lay down weapons, how to initiate a bilateral ceasefire and other issues regarding the transition of former guerrillas into larger society.