- Title: Timochenko apologises for FARC at peace signing
- Date: 27th September 2016
- Summary: WIDE OF PERFORMANCE ON STAGE
- Embargoed: 12th October 2016 01:04
- Keywords: Juan Manuel Santos Timochenko FARC Cartagena
- Location: CARTAGENA + BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
- City: CARTAGENA + BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
- Country: Colombia
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA004517FHAF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: FARC's Timochenko offered an apology to the victims of its war with the Colombian government after the country's centre-right government and the rebel leader signed a peace deal on Monday (September 26) to end more than five decades of conflict.
After four years of peace talks in Cuba, President Juan Manuel Santos, 65, and rebel leader Timochenko - the nom de guerre for 57-year-old Rodrigo Londono - warmly shook hands on Colombian soil for the first time and signed the accord with a pen made from a bullet casing.
The end of Latin America's longest-running war will turn the FARC guerrillas into a political party fighting at the ballot box instead of the battlefield they have occupied since 1964.
Reaching out to the victims of war, Timochenko offered his apology for the pain caused by over 50 years of bloodshed.
"In the name of FARC-EP, I offer sincere apology to all the victims of the conflict, for all the pain that we have caused in this war," he said.
President Juan Manuel Santos, 64, is half-way through his second term and has staked his legacy on peace in the face of opposition from sectors of the country who think the FARC should be crushed militarily.
"Mr. Rodrigo Londono and members of the FARC, today when you begin your path of return to society, when you start your transition into a political movement without guns, following the rules of justice, truth and reparation as included in the agreement, as head of state of the homeland we all love, I welcome you to democracy,." said the Colombian leader.
The signing of the peace deal now sets the stage for a national vote on the peace deal to end a guerrilla war born in the 1960s out of frustration with deep socio-economic inequalities that outlived all other major uprisings in Latin America.
"Colombia is preparing itself to take advantage of its greatest potential. And this will be everyone's job. Not just the government's, but all of society. This is the new country we envision. A country in peace, a country with greater equality, a better educated society that allows us to progress, and be happy. Dear friends of the peace in Colombia. I started by remembering lines from our national anthem and I will end as well with the anthem which today touch us more than ever. Colombians, the horrible night has ended. The horrible night of violence that has covered us with its shadow for half a century is over. The horrible night is over. And the day arrives with all its promises," added Santos.
Guests at the ceremony in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena were asked to wear white and included United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Showing its support for the peace deal, the European Union on Monday removed the FARC from its list of terror groups.
Kerry said Washington would also review whether to take the FARC off its terrorism list, and has pledged $390 million for Colombia next year to support the peace process.
Colombians will now vote on October 2 on whether to ratify the agreement, but polls show it should pass easily.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, began as a peasant revolt, became a big player in the cocaine trade and at its strongest had 20,000 fighters. Now its some 7,000 fighters must hand over their weapons to the United Nations within 180 days.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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