Colombia and FARC rebels sign drug deal

Colombia's government and FARC, the country's largest rebel group, agree on to deal with the illegal drug trade

Colombia's pure cocaine production has fallen by 72% since 2001
Colombia's pure cocaine production has fallen by 72% since 2001

he Colombian government and FARC rebels have announced an agreement to combat drug trafficking, in a breakthrough just days before a presidential election.

Last year, government officials and the left-wing FARC(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) agreed on land reform and political participation.

In a joint statement, the FARC and government negotiators on Friday said the deal was part of a "comprehensive solution to the problem of illegal drugs" which has "financed the conflict" between rebels and the government.

A week-long ceasefire was also struck between the two sides as part of ongoing peace negotiations and as the country prepares to elect its next president on May 25.

As with previous agreements, details of the programme to combat the drug trade will need to be discussed further by special commissions.

At a news conference in the Cuban capital, Havana, the Colombian chief negotiator, former vice-President Humberto de la Calle, said the deal was a "fundamental step" towards peace.

"This way we eliminate the petrol that has fuelled the conflict in Colombia for decades," he said.

As part of the deal , both parties also agreed on a programme to clear rural areas of land mines.

The Farc negotiator Ivan Marquez said the left-wing rebels insisted on addressing the consequences of the aerial spraying of coca plantations, including reparations for those affected.

The talks in the Cuban capital, Havana, are the fourth attempt since the 1980s to reach peace.

Previous negotiations failed amid disagreements, mutual recriminations and flare-ups of violence.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and more than five million internally displaced during Colombia's civil conflict, which has its roots in the 1960s.

While the FARC is the largest single armed group, Colombia’s government is battling a variety of fighters ranging from organised Marxist rebels to hired-soldiers linked to landowning elites.