March 22, 2016 / 3:33 PM / 3 years ago

Colombia FARC rebels optimistic about peace after Kerry meeting

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s FARC Marxist rebel group is optimistic it will soon sign a peace deal with the government, its leader said on Tuesday, after negotiators from both sides met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry, in Cuba as part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the island, met the two sides separately on Monday and called for them to redouble their efforts to resolve the remaining issues in the more than three-year-old talks.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko, said the meeting with Kerry was “historic, unprecedented, unimaginable.”

“We have received from him in person a backing for the peace process in Colombia, which filled us with optimism and which gives us more certainty that we are heading toward peace,” Londono said in a video published by the rebel group.

Negotiators have reached partial agreements on land reform, guerrilla participation in politics, transitional justice, efforts to find missing persons and remove land mines, and an end to illegal drug trafficking. They are currently discussing a bilateral ceasefire and rebel demobilization.

Last year the two sides agreed on a March 23 deadline for a final accord, but negotiators have since said a deal will not be possible by that date.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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