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Colombia’s rebels declare indefinite ceasefire

Colombia’s largest guerrilla group Wednesday declared an indefinite ceasefire amid a two-year peace process that may be the country’s best chance of ending the half-century civil conflict.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said the move, which will go into effect Saturday, comes amid increasing confidence in the negotiations that are taking place in Havana.

“This unilateral ceasefire, which we hope to prolong, will only end if our guerrillas are the object of attacks by the armed forces,” the FARC said in a statement signed by the high command.

The government has repeatedly denied guerrilla requests for a bilateral ceasefire, saying that détentes in the past have been used by the FARC to regroup and rearm.

The guerrillas also asked that the Union of South American Nations, and the Red Cross, among others, verify the ceasefire.

The government did not immediately respond to the statement, but earlier in the day President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter that “the military offensive will continue until we put an end to this conflict.”

Former President and now Sen. Alvaro Uribe, a vocal opponent of the peace process, said the guerrillas were not to be trusted.

“The terrorist FARC want the [armed forces] to stand down so they can strengthen themselves,” he wrote on Twitter. He also said the guerrillas would try to pin any continuing violence on the government.

The news comes as negotiators wrapped up the 31st round of talks — the final one for this year. This cycle has focused on how to recognize and provide reparations for the millions of victims of the conflict.

Wednesday’s announcement also comes just weeks after talks appeared to be teetering. In November, the FARC captured Brig. Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate and two companions in a remote part of northern Colombia. The government called off talks until Alzate and the others were released Nov. 30.

“The process should be in the home stretch,” the government’s chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle said Wednesday in Havana. “That’s what we deserve as a society and that should be our response to the millions of Colombians who have put their faith in this effort.”

Santos has said he expects to have a completed deal in 2015.

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