Britain drafting U.N. resolution to set up Colombia mission: envoys

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain has circulated to key members of the United Nations Security Council a draft resolution to launch planning for a U.N. mission to oversee disarmament should Colombia’s government and leftist rebels reach a final peace deal, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) negotiator Joaquin Gomez speaks to the media in Havana, Cuba January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels agreed on Tuesday to ask the 15-nation council to help monitor and verify rebel disarmament should the two sides reach a deal to end their 50-year-old war.

Several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Britain is drafting the resolution and has already presented the other four veto-wielding permanent council members - the United States, France, Russia and China - with a draft text that could go to a vote in the coming weeks.

“We’re just at the beginning of the drafting process,” one diplomat said.

The permanent council members will discuss and possibly revise the British draft before passing it to the other 10 council members.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement welcoming the decision by Colombia’s government and FARC to seek the creation of a mission to monitor implementation of any future peace deal.

“What we need ... is a resolution that fires the starting gun” to begin the detailed planning work needed to set up the mission, a senior council diplomat said.

He added that it would have to be done “in a way that meets the needs of the Colombian government and the FARC,” adding that the fact that they both wanted it and had turned to the United Nations was “very, very good news.”

The diplomats said they hoped the resolution could go to a vote within the next few weeks. They added that the Colombians had consulted with council members before announcing the plan to make the request at the United Nations.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said last year he would make such an appeal at the U.N.

The rebels’ willingness to make the request jointly with the government is a sign of progress as the two sides aim to reach a comprehensive peace agreement before a March 23 deadline that negotiators set last year.

The Colombians asked that the U.N. mission be made up of representatives from Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The international monitors would verify a bilateral ceasefire, preside over the FARC’s disarmament, settle any disputes and make recommendations.

Editing by Jonathan Oatis