x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Colombia and rebels reach land reform deal

The Colombian government and the country's biggest rebel group have reached an agreement on one of their main bones of contention in talks in Havana.

HAVANA // The Colombian government and the country's biggest rebel group have reached an agreement on one of their main bones of contention, land reform, after more than a half year of slow-moving peace talks in Cuba's capital.

Both said the agreement constituted a major breakthrough, although several key details still needed to be worked out in the coming weeks and months. They did not release the text of the accord, but said it dealt with issues like property rights, access to land and rural infrastructure development.

"This agreement will be the start of a radical transformation of the countryside," Sunday's joint communique said.

The parties must now reach understandings in five other areas, starting with the political reintegration of fighters for the rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, another highly sensitive issue.

The two sides have stressed that no agreement on a particular issue will be final until a complete peace accord is reached. But for one day, at least, the long-time enemies seemed optimistic an important step had been taken toward ending the half-century long conflict.

"Today we have a real opportunity to attain peace through dialogue," said the government's chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle. "To support this process is to believe in Colombia."