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June 23, 2017

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Disarmament will be long process: FARC negotiator

HAVANA, Cuba--Colombia's FARC guerrillas will not give up their weapons at once, and need guarantees from the government to disarm, a negotiator said Tuesday as the peace process marked two years.

Cementing a cease-fire and disarming the leftist rebel group are among the thorniest topics remaining in the talks, the fourth and most promising attempt so far to end the 50-year-old conflict.

As a "subcommittee" of army officers and rebels got down to work on the issue, FARC negotiator Andres Paris warned there would be no instant solution.

"No one has suggested to the FARC, nor have we ever said to the government, that there would be a single moment when we would hand over our arms. I repeat, there will be no photo op of the FARC handing over its arms," Paris told AFP in an interview.

"We see disarmament as a long process."

A cease-fire and disarmament are the next item on the schedule for the peace process, which was launched on August 26, 2012 with the signing of an agreement that laid out a six-point agenda for negotiations.

The talks in Havana have so far produced deals on three points: land reform, political participation for the rebels and curbing the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

The two sides are currently working on the issues of reparations for victims and disarmament, and are then due to tackle the question of how the final peace agreement will be ratified.

As the cease-fire subcommittee began work last week — the first time active combatants from both sides came together around the same table at the talks — both the rebels and government called it a sign of progress.

But Paris said ending hostilities would take guarantees and time.

"The cease-fire issue overlaps or interlocks with the issue of political guarantees," he said.

The government says that land reform "can't happen in a short time. They talk about 10 years. But when they talk about disarmament, they tell us, 'You could do that in a day.' That's absurd," he added.

"What's going to make our weapons disappear is turning our guerrilla force into a political party, not handing over our arms."

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