By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) - The Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels have agreed to search for those who have gone missing during a half century of war, pledging a rapid and dignified recovery of remains and also a quest for those who might still be alive.
The agreement, reached late Saturday, solves one of the final remaining issues for peace talks, which achieved a major breakthrough in September when then two sides vowed to end their 50-year war within six months.
Colombia's attorney general estimates 52,000 people have disappeared during Latin America's longest war, which has killed some 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.
Both the government and rebels promised to help locate unmarked graves where the war dead may be buried, creating a "specialized unit to search for people who are considered disappeared," according to a joint statement.
They will also furnish the International Committee of the Red Cross with information to help find the missing.
Some captured former rebels have already been cooperating with the location of unmarked graves in exchange for lighter sentences, often a difficult task in remote jungle or mountain terrain.
The biggest obstacles to identification have been the investigators' lack of training, funding and equipment.
Human rights advocates and families of the disappeared have warned that unless more bodies are exhumed, identified and returned to their families, Colombia risks handicapping its post-conflict development.
The government and FARC have been in peace talks in Havana for nearly three years. They recently set a deadline of March 23 to reach a final agreement, which would then be put before Colombian voters for ratification.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Mark Potter)