A joint team of Colombian military soldiers and rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began removing land mines in the northwestern department of Antioquia Sunday.
“For the first time, after nearly 50 years of conflict, a military battalion and the FARC cooperated in efforts to help a local community seriously affected by the conflict,” said Humberto de la Calle, the Colombian government's lead negotiator at peace talks underway in Havana, Cuba.
The initiative comes as part of an agreement reached between the government and the FARC, in which both parties will assist in landmine removal.
FARC and military soldiers met in order to exchange information regarding the precise location of the landmines, as well as the proper disarmament techniques.
“The agreement in place is being fulfilled. The FARC are providing precise maps with the locations of the mines and are actively helping to identify the areas that have been heavily mined,” De La Calle stated.
Colombia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world – a consequence of the ongoing civil war between government troops, right-wing paramilitaries and guerrilla fighters, such as the FARC. More than 11,000 people have been injured or killed by landmines in Colombia over the past 15 years.
The FARC has been engaged in peace talks with the government since September 2012, and the two sides have so far agreed on agrarian reform, political participation, and illegal drugs. Agreement on crucial points such as a definite ceasefire and reparations for victims remain on the table.