The lead negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Ivan Marquez, announced Wednesday that the guerrillas will reinstate a unilateral cease-fire beginning July 20, heading calls from international observers for an “urgent de-escalation” of the fighting between the guerrillas and government forces.
“We announce our willingness to order a unilateral cease-fire from July 20, for a month,” Marquez said in a statement. “Through this, we’re looking to create favorable conditions with our counterpart to advance a definitive and bilateral cease-fire,” he added.
The statement is in response to earlier calls by Cuba and Norway, the guarantor nations of the current peace talks, as well as Venezuela and Chile, which send observers to the talks, to de-escalate the fighting. Hostilities from both sides have increased in recent months, putting a strain on the peace process which has been underway in Havana, Cuba since November 2012.
“We urge the parties for maximum restriction of operations of all kinds that cause casualties and suffering in Colombia, and to intensify the implementation of confidence-building measures,” said the group of facilitating countries Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the Colombian government announced for the first time its willingness to declare a bilateral cease-fire with the FARC, the country's largest guerrilla group. The announcement, however, came just after Colombian President Juan Manual Santos announced plans to intensify the government’s offensive against the rebels.
The Colombian government had previously expressed its opposition to a bilateral cease-fire before signing a final peace accord. The closest the government has been to a cease-fire was when it agreed earlier this year to stop air bombing FARC camps for brief periods of time – after the FARC announced a unilateral ceasefire in December. Both sides have since called off these combat restrictions.
Peace talks between the government and FARC have been going on for over two years, with the aim of ending the five-decades-old conflict, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people and displaced millions in Colombia.